Livingston ISD claims realignment sanctions unfair

LIVINGSTON - The Livingston Independent School District is asking the University Interscholastic League to rescind the sanction and probationary status that was placed on the school district back in March of 2016.  Livingston ISD has also asked the UIL to “issue clarification to the alternative education enrollment guidelines.”

The UIL ultimately moved Livingston into District 22-5A and disrupted the schedules for many schools from Southeast Texas, as they were required to make the 1.5 hour bus ride to Livingston for district games.

In a letter dated May 16, 2016 to the UIL, attorneys for the school district claim the District was “accused of moving 81 students to an alternative education campus before the enrollment snapshot date on October 30, 2015, allegedly to avoid realignment to 5A.”

MORE | Scroll down to read the district's letter to the UIL

After the original realignment, Livingston fell into 10-4A. When the school was reported to the UIL and notified to report students who were in Alternative Education Accountability (AEA) campuses, the letter states that Livingston ISD cooperated immediately and revised its numbers. After a realignment hearing, Livingston ISD was placed into District 22-5A, much to the dismay of the eight other schools involved in that district.

An eight-team district was now nine and all teams were forced to cancel an already scheduled preseason game so they could make room for Livingston on their schedule. The opposing teams that were dropped by 22-5A schools had to rush to find new competition.

Livingston went from being a larger 4A school to the smallest school in 22-5A almost overnight, and the move made it appear like they were trying to get around playing in a higher classification. Attorneys for the district argued in the letter to the UIL, that wasn’t Livingston’s intention at all.

According to the letter, Livingston ISD didn’t report these students because they “understood “school” and “resident students” to mean students affiliated with each TEA campus number.” According to Livingston ISD, the school set up this AEA campus in an attempt to graduate at-risk students.  All of Livingston’s AEA students are under a separate TEA campus code. The students in this academy do not participate in UIL events according to the District.

It may have appeared that Livingston found a creative way to be put in a smaller district in hopes to be more competitive, but the SEC (UIL State Executive Committee) determined that nothing indicated intent on behalf of the District to falsify enrollment data. The district was still issued a public reprimand and given two years’ probationary status.

Livingston went on to compete in football 22-5A this past year. Posting a 4-4 record in District play, and missing the playoffs. The school still has one more year before a potential realignment.

Many in District 22-5A were unhappy with the addition of Livingston to the group that had short travel times and built in rivalries rooted in tradition.

According to the letter, at the time of the sanction, the school district was lead to believe that they were the only district in the state of Texas to misunderstand the rules of reporting “resident students” in AEA campuses.  Through public information requests to the UIL, Livingston ISD discovered data that, according to them, shows that at least 30 school districts in Texas failed to report AEA campus number for UIL alignment realignment. And “Of the 30 districts, at least 9 of those districts included high schools that may have been aligned to a higher classification had AEA campus enrollment been reported. Yet, despite the documented evidence, LISD was the only district subjected to a hearing before the SEC and public sanctions.”

According the Livingston ISD’s filing with the UIL, at least three school districts, Lufkin ISD, Brazosport ISD, and Bryan ISD were investigated by the UIL for failing to account for AEA enrollment.

Livingston ISD’s letter states that Lufkin was the first school investigated by the UIL. In November of 2015, the UIL notified Lufkin ISD that it received a complaint about Lufkin high school’s enrollment numbers for the ’14-’16 realignment. Lufkin’s Superintendent responded stating that the students were “missed due to an oversight by our new principal.”

Later on Lufkin ISD’s attorney Wayne Haglund would have correspondence with the UIL stating that “[t]he enrollment numbers submitted by Lufkin High School for October 25, 2013 did not include the enrollment numbers from the Stubblefield Learning Center. The Lufkin Independent School District believes that it was justified in this regard because the Stubblefield School has its own distinct Texas Education Agency number and is reported as an entirely separate campus, independent from Lufkin High School.”

This is important because an investigation by KTRE in Lufkin revealed “The Texas Education Agency report shows Lufkin ISD to have an enrollment of 2,136, putting LISD above the 6A cutoff of 2,099. UIL records show LISD to have turned in a number of 2,088, which put the district in 5A.”

Lufkin would go on to win a 5A state championship in soccer in 2015.

After this admission by Lufkin ISD, the UIL responded on July 12, 2016, four months after Livingston ISD was sanctioned, stating, “having reviewed the district’s submission related to its enrollment figures and concluding they are bona fide, it is the UIL’s view that Lufkin ISD is in compliance with UIL rules and policies governing its reclassification and alignment process.

Lufkin ISD was not sanctioned.

Livingston ISD’s letter also reveals that Bryan ISD has been notified twice by the UIL that they should include students that were enrolled in AEA campuses. Once in April of 2015, and again in April of 2016. The first of which was never investigated and Bryan ISD was not sanctioned. The second resulting in the Superintendent of Bryan ISD citing “UIL officials stated that the district did not have to include the enrollment number of MC Harris students within UIL Realignment snapshot enrollment numbers for Bryan High or Rudder High.”

The letter states that unlike Livingston, Bryan ISD defended its decision to exclude AEA enrollment numbers. On July 12, 2016 the UIL issued the same response to Bryan ISD as it did for Lufkin ISD.

“Having reviewed the district’s submission related to its enrollment figures and concluding they are bona fide, it is the UIL’s view that Bryan ISD is in compliance with UIL rules and policies governing its reclassification and alignment process.”

Bryan ISD was not sanctioned.

The same statement was issued for Brazosport on July 12, 2016 after the school excluded the enrollment for their AEA campus. Because the campus “has a separate TEA number and is held to different accountability standards.”

Brazosport ISD was not sanctioned.

The letter concludes as follows:

“On behalf of the LISD School Board and the students it serves, we thank you in advance for the time you will spend reviewing the enclosures and thoughtfully considering this request. Should we not receive a response to this request on or before Thursday, May 25, 2017, Livingston ISD will be forced to consider alternatives for equitable relief for the district.”

The 30 school districts in the UIL open records request by Livingston ISD purportedly not reporting AEA numbers correctly are as follows: 

Azle ISD

Brazosport ISD*

Bryan ISD*

Canyon ISD

China Springs ISD

Christoval ISD*

Cleaburne ISD

College Station ISD

Copperas Cove ISD

Desoto ISD

Donna ISD*

Edouch-Elsa ISD

Edna ISD

Everman ISD

Galveston ISD*

Georgetown ISD

Greenville ISD

Hereford ISD

Iraan-Sheffield ISD

Kaufman ISD*

Nacogdoches ISD

New Braunfels ISD

Rockwall ISD

Sanger ISD

San Felipe-Del Rio CISD

Somerset ISD*

Terrell ISD*

Vernon ISD

Waco ISD

Waxahachie ISD*

*denotes school districts where inclusion of AEA students could affect high school UIL classification and alignment. 

UIL Letter & Exhibits

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