Letters to the Editor May 1, 2015

May 01, 2015

School Board Votes For 

Mediocre Athletics

To the Editor:

Thank you for Brian Wilson’s fine article on the School Board’s irrational decision to not allow private school students to play on Santa Paula High School sports teams.  (SP Times, April 22, 2015.)  (Chris Wilson, Diana Ponce-Gomez, and Christina Urias voted against it; Michelle Kolbeck and Kelsey Stewart voted for it.)  Space constraints, however, didn’t let you tell even the half of it.

Last year, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) adopted a rule allowing students from private schools who have no athletic teams to partner up with schools who do have athletic teams.  The requirements are simple: prove your residency in the CIF-member school district, submit your grades on time, comply with all other CIF eligibility guidelines. 

As I have a son who attends St. Augustine Academy in nearby Saticoy (and which does not have CIF athletic teams), I thought it would be a no-brainer to ask the Santa Paula Unified School District Board for permission to have St. Augustine students who live in Santa Paula to participate in SPHS athletics.  (St. Augustine’s generally enrolls about 20 high school students from Santa Paula, and probably fewer than five would be interested in SPHS athletics.)

Yet, SPUSD Board member Chris Wilson opposed the measure, because he feared it would “open the floodgates” to have other private schools apply for such permission.  Wouldn’t SPHS benefit from a flood of athletes coming from other private schools?  But wish on.  No flood will ever happen. 

How many students from Santa Paula attend the half-dozen private and charter schools (without CIF sports) located in the Ojai-Ventura-Camarillo-Oxnard radius?  I don’t know, but I would wager it’s less than the dozen or so student-athletes SPHS loses each year to St. Bonaventure, Buena, Ventura, Villanova, and Rio Mesa.  (Full disclosure:  I have had children attend, and compete, at Villanova, St. Bonaventure and SPHS.  I have also volunteered coaching track at SPHS for many years.  I want to sweep as many students as possible into SPHS athletic programs.)  Wilson’s objection makes no sense based on fact or principle.

Board Member Diana Ponce-Gomez echoed Wilson’s objection and said it would be “impossible” for her to decide which private schools should be approved and which should not.  Really?  She is incapable of making a rational distinction between one school and another – especially when no other schools have applied, nor can apply for the 2015-16 school year?  Especially when the CIF rule requires year-to-year approval of any school?  She is unwilling to test the experience for one year with one school?

The most irrational objection came from Board Member Christina Urias.  She said she would “feel bad” if a private school student “beat out” a SPHS student for some spot on a team.  That’s mediocrity at its finest.  Never mind that the two students would both be from Santa Paula.  Never mind that the SPHS team is made better by better athletes.  We need to feel bad for those who are inferior.  I am sure Santa Paula fans and coaches think differently.

I know some do.  Speaking in favor of the proposal was Juvenal Magana, President of the Santa Paula Youth Football League.  So did Gabe Luna, long-time Santa Paula youth football coach.  So did Dom Forte, a long-time SP Little League manager, and Jon Daly, who serves on the SP Little League Board.  So did Marguerite Leon, a St. Augustine parent whose kids have long-played in SP youth sports.  And it was heartening to see SPHS Quarterback Keshaun Mata and other teammates attend the hearing in support of my son, Michael.  They are friends and former youth program teammates.  They want a better SPHS football team and they were thrilled the CIF rule change would allow that to happen. 

So are Westlake High School and Camarillo High School.  They took advantage of the CIF rule and they allow private school students to play for their teams.  Last year, Camarillo allowed a St. Augustine student to play on the girls volleyball team, and she helped them win a league title as co-captain of the team.  The sole administrative requirement involved between the two schools:  filling out a form once a year.  Yet, that’s too much for SPHS officials.  Principal Elizabeth Garcia said she has better things to do.  And she worried about a hypothetical cost impact of the proposal, ignoring that such athletes will be actively involved in fundraising efforts for their sports teams.  St. Augustine student athletes would make money for SPHS, and yet that doesn’t count for her. 

Also championing the naysayers was Superintendent Alfonso Gamino.  This public official, who is supposed to take into account all interests of the community, including taxpayer interests, seems to think his job is to oppose any proposal that benefits any organization other than SPHS, even if it also benefits SPHS.  Santa Paula youth sports programs, which are comprised of public and private school students, should take special caution under his watch, lest they be denied sensible benefits, too.

Two members of the Board, however, deserve loud cheers:  Michelle Kolbeck and Kelsey Stewart.  They voted in favor of the proposal.  They want SPHS sports to succeed.  Their three colleagues, however, decided to hide behind irrational fears, to deprive SPHS of a superior athletic program, and to break the hearts of Michael and those of his former teammates.  Maybe they’ll think better next year.

David A. Shaneyfelt

Santa Paula

Dear Santa 


To the Editor:

Our family would like to thank you for your thoughts, cards, emails, and words spoken, about our Mother, Jane Schrock during her long bout with cancer and now freedom, in Christ, from the suffering and pain.

Jane delighted in serving this community in a variety of roles over the 45 years she called Santa Paula home. Most especially she had a heart for the youth and served/led the following: GEMS (Good Emergency Mother Substitutes), Briggs 4H Club and Ventura County 4H program, counseling students at Isbell School, finally in her role as psychologist with a passion for the teens and their challenges today.

We will miss her. May you choose to take up Jane’s torch and serve where you are planted.

Schrock Family

Athletic rejection

To the Editor:

I am among the many who were shocked to see the Santa Paula Unified School District Board vote to reject a proposal that would allow students to participate in Santa Paula High School athletics when they attend private schools that have no sports programs.  Last year, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) adopted a rule that allows school districts to permit such private school students to so participate.  I can’t imagine why the Board (by a vote of 3-2) would not want that to happen at SPHS.

I am President of the Santa Paula Youth Cardinal Football League and I have had the pleasure of watching this youth football program generate many fine athletes for the High School team over the years.  Because Santa Paula’s elementary schools and middle school have no formal football programs, our Youth Program is the only formal football program in Santa Paula and it is the primary feeder system to, and supporter of, SPHS football.  We train our players and coaches with the same playbook and techniques as the High School does, and our goal is to make all our players excel as players in the High School program.

And I’m very glad to say that it has worked.  Over the past several years, Santa Paula teams have gotten better and better, I think, because we have made our youth program better and better and tailored to the Varsity program.  We also want our players to be good students, too, and so our coaches monitor players’ progress in school, with the cooperation and assistance of teachers and principals in Santa Paula schools.  This creates a powerful incentive for our students to perform well on and off the field.

Our program has welcomed any Santa Paula youth, irrespective of what school they attend, including private schools or homeschools.  We want youths who want to play football, no matter where they come from.  And, I think, it has worked wonderfully well for all involved.  We foster team bonding so that differences of all other kinds – racial, economic, school – become irrelevant.  We are very proud of how that bonding has occurred and how it works in our program.

I want to see that occur at SPHS, too.  Now that the CIF allows students from small schools without athletic programs to participate in SPHS athletic programs, we should take advantage of that without hesitation.   Feeding more athletes into the SPHS program benefits the SPHS program.  We can’t help those who leave Santa Paula and who attend other schools with sports programs, but we certainly should capture back those who attend other schools that have no sports programs.

I hope the Board reconsiders its decision.  It makes no sense to not take advantage of the new CIF rule.

Juvenal Magana



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