Friday, April 4, 2014

My take on the charter school debate

When Monessen head coach Joe Salvino spoke to The Valley Independent leading up to the WPIAL Class A Championship game regarding charter schools, he was criticized for stating that the Lincoln Parks of the WPIAL did not play by the rules. Salvino, who is known for never biting his tongue, strapped on his boxing mitts and delivered a gut shot to the charter school monster that lurks in the background of every small public school attempting to be successful in WPIAL basketball.

Administrators for charter schools criticized Salvino, while public school coaches across the WPIAL stood in unison to have Salvino’s back. Lincoln Park athletic director Mike Bariski called Salvino’s comments disgraceful and his head basketball coach, Mark Javens, pointed to the inevitable title game mismatch as Salvino’s reasoning.

Duh. Lincoln Park has three high-level Division I recruits, including one of Salvino’s former players, while Monessen had a group of kids with a rough knowledge of the game.

Salvino said what every coach in the WPIAL was thinking and on Tuesday, his comments proved to be more than one man’s thoughts on the debate. Bob Lombardi, director of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, said the current arrangement charter schools operate under constitutes a “dual enrollment” status for charter school students that is not available to public schools.

 Charter school advocates say that it is the boosters who front the tuition for players, not the taxpayers., but these “boosters” aren’t filling up the gas tanks of buses taking these kids to learn about performing arts. Elijah Minnie was bussed 61 miles to Lincoln Park (Midland) from his home in Monessen. What about former West Mifflin star Ryan Skovranko? He was bussed 45 miles to and from Lincoln Park with the tax payers in his district footing the bill.

According to a study done by my friends in Ohio at the Akron Beacon Journal, who analyzed the cost of busing kids to charter schools, it costs about 44 percent more per child to deliver the charter school attendees door to door. While some folks in Monessen and West Mifflin are struggling to make ends meet, they’re helping Javens and Bariski buy a state championship ring.

You will be hard pressed to defend what schools like Lincoln Park are doing. When the Leopards wanted to establish themselves as a basketball powerhouse, they hired Javens, who previously coached and recruited at the Community College of Beaver County. How did Lincoln Park get Minnie? They had his former AAU teammate, Skovranko, do the “recruiting.” All it took was a few phone calls and a little convincing. If Chartiers Valley’s Matty McConnell called up a former teammate and backed the Colts as a potential destination for a fellow player, pitch forks and torches would be a plenty.

Not with charter schools though.

When I asked Bariski following the WPIAL title game about Salvino’s comments, he said Minnie was failing every class while at Monessen and now he is doing well. The argument is mute when you consider the actual reasoning for Minnie’s departure. He didn’t leave Monessen for grades. He left after getting in trouble and attending Summit Academy.

The problem is not limited to charter schools. Private schools such as Vincentian Academy and Sewickley Academy have the same competitive advantage over public schools. The solution won’t be a simple one, but schools like Lincoln Park, who want to be treated differently, should either compete amongst themselves or enrollment figures should not play a part in what classification they play in.

Why not put all of them in Quad-A? The simple answer: a state championship wouldn’t be as easy to earn as it was in Class A. In that regard, they want to be treated the same as public schools.

When the administrative meeting was held on Tuesday, Lombardi said it best: “From a competitive standpoint, charter schools have made obsolete any realistic competition with traditional public schools.”

Something tells me we won’t see potential solutions affecting private schools in the state, but this is the first in many discussions the PIAA will have regarding charter schools.


  1. The blogger is correct - recruiting at high schools is rampid and is hurting people. Sewickley Academy Head of School’s recent rebuttal is correct in what he presented, regarding the soccer team. However, I am not certain of the validity of the Head’s point if viewed through the prism of the SA basketball program of recent past. The first step in addressing a problem should be acknowledgement that one exists. SA’s Head of School has an opportunity to set an example and "set the record straight" that even SA has had this problem and that it no longer recruits. What a breath of fresh air that could be and an example to be followed. Paradoxically, SA's Head of School seems more concerned with SA's image than upholding its Core Values.

  2. rampid = rampant

  3. For SA Head of School rebuttal go to: