LISD challenges UIL sanctions

Livingston Independent School District has requested that the University Interscholastic League rescind sanctions placed upon them in a March 22 meeting last year. The public reprimand and two-year probationary period were for rules related to submission of enrollment figures for reclassification and realignment.

Lion athletic teams were originally slated to move into District 10-4A Div. I for competition against Cleveland, Bridge City, Huffman Hargrave, Little Cypress-Mauriceville, Navasota and Silsbee in football. In basketball, a district of Lufkin Hudson, Jasper, Diboll and Huntington would have competed with the Lions.

In February, an appeals committee placed Livingston in District 22-5A, as it exceeded the 1,100-student minimum when combined with Livingston Academy. Schools in the district included Baytown Lee, Beaumont Central, Beaumont Ozen, Lumberton, Nederland, Port Arthur Memorial, Port Neches-Groves and Vidor.

The district’s alternative school, Livingston High School Academy seems to be at the center of the debate. At its largest point last year, the academy had 81 students enrolled, whereas there were 25 the year prior.

In October of 2015, Livingston board members changed the name of its alternative education school from “Challenger” to “Academy” for a more positive connotation. LISD superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins said many of the kids in the academy are as much as two years and several credits behind. It provides an expansion in computer-based programs and the district assigned full-time teachers and a principal to help students.

According to documents obtained by the Enterprise, a letter from school district attorneys Karczewski and Bradshaw to the UIL claims that the “UIL failed to apply enrollment rules consistently to all school districts, rendering what appears to be, an arbitrary sanction.” They have requested that the UIL State Executive Committee (SEC) publicly rescind Livingston’s sanction of two years’ probation and provide clarification regarding the procedure to report students participating in alternative education for future enrollment reporting.”

The 89-page document cites 30 other school districts that had similar discrepancies in reporting 2016-2018 alignment data. Of the 30 school districts, 10 had more than the 81-student difference of Livingston, and districts such as Waco (458) and Bryan (316) were at the high end of the list.

Livingston’s reporting for an alternative education accountability campus in 2016 was its first year doing so and the district claims that it “understood ‘school’ and ‘resident students’ to mean students affiliated with each TEA campus number. Because the district’s (alternative education accountability or AEA) campus, Livingston Academy, does not participate in UIL activities, has a separate campus number assigned by TEA, and is not listed in the UIL portal, Livingston ISD did not report Academy student enrollment to UIL for realignment purposes. Once notified by UIL that it should have included an AEA campus enrollment in the figures submitted for Livingston High School, the district immediately cooperated with UIL and revised enrollment data for the high school.”

The documents also highlight correspondence between the UIL and school districts of Bryan, Lufkin and Brazosport. Each also did not report its AEA campus numbers, yet each were not sanctioned. Lufkin would eventally win a soccer state title in 2015, while participating in 5A.