Jefferson City Schools Disputes GHSA Reclassification

- Next school year the Georgia High School Association will implement the "three percent rule."

The rule says that Class AA through Class AAAAA schools who draw more than three percent of their students from outside of their county will have to play up one classification.

The rule targets private schools and city schools who are thought to have a competitive advantage of bringing in outside students to make their athletic teams better. The Jefferson City School System says that the new rule is not being applied fairly.

Jefferson City Schools Superintendent John Jackson says the GHSA's new three percent rule is not being applied uniformly around the state.

After the GHSA put out the "full time enrollment" numbers last November, they allowed schools that would be targeted to move up to appeal. Jefferson was not a part of that initial appeal process.

"We were under the impression that three percent meant three percent. We found out after this appeals hearing that three percent did not necessarily mean three percent. It depended on what system was asking for the appeal, it appeared to me," says Jackson.

Dave Hunter is on the reclassification committee that heard 16 appeals on that day and passed 14 of those.

"Each of them made their own case individually and each of them were granted acceptance or denied on their own individual presentation."

Once the Jefferson City Schools saw that systems with similar out of county percentages to Jefferson's 8.7% won their appeals, such as Social Circle with an 11% out-of-county rate, Jefferson made their case that the GHSA Executive Committee meeting in January.

Their appeal was denied and that has Superintendent John Jackson fired up.

"We do not go out and recruit players throughout the state of Georgia to come to Jefferson to play ball," says Jackson. "You have some individuals who have been a part of that organization for many years and their agendas seem to be at this stage of the game what runs that organizations decisions," added Jackson.

Hunter says that when hearing the appeals, the reclassification committee considered the children of school employees, students who had transferred in primary school and other factors that would take a school's out-of-county percentage down. Hunter contends that all of the schools whose appeals were granted were able to get their out-of-county percentage below the three percent cut-off.  

Jefferson City Schools disputes that all schools were able to get under the three percent cutoff using the new formula. The school system's attorney says that once the new formula is applied, Jefferson's percentage is equal to or better than Social Circle High School's percentage and both are above three percent. Social Circle's appeal was granted and Jefferson's was denied.

When asked about Jefferson's appeal, Hunter said, "I'm certainly not anti-Jefferson or anti anybody. I just want to make the process fair. I have seen the information that they presented 'that this one was over that.' I don't know what information they got from Social Circle or the GHSA, but at the time we heard them, I stated at the meeting that I thought that every school that we had granted had gotten below the three percent threshold after the criteria we used was used for the three percent. We might have we made a mistake, possibly. We could have made a mistake on one or two of those, but we heard those individually."

Jackson says he thinks Jefferson's multi-state champion wrestling team and the football team will be able to compete at the higher classification. He is worried that the girls programs will struggle against schools with higher enrollment numbers.

"I have been doing this for forty years, I do not believe in my heart of hearts this is consistent with what the Georgia High School Association says its intentions are," says Jackson.

FOX 5 spoke with GHSA Executive Director Gary Phillips on Wednesday and Phillips says that he doesn't plan to revisit Jefferson's appeal and he considers the matter closed.

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