Every two years on February 1, sports, arts, and academic UIL (University Interscholastic League) districts are evaluated and redistricted by the UIL board of directors. Every two years, The Ann Richards School is moved up to 6A based on the board’s interpretation of school type. Every two years, Ann Richards Coach, Meg Brown, appeals this decision and we are moved back down to 5A. This year, however, Coach Brown is facing more difficulty than usual.
Before we can go into the details of this year’s appeal, you must understand the background of this situation. According to the official UIL Texas website, 4A schools have 505 to 1149 students, 5A schools have 1150 to 2189 students, and 6A schools have 2190 and above. Ann Richards has approximately 400 high school students. Because we are a single-sex school, our recorded numbers must be doubled in order to make up for the lack of boys.
Another aspect that UIL accounts for is that we are a “school of choice.” If you are familiar with the way Ann Richards runs, you are aware that we are a unique school, especially when it comes to public school regulations. Our principal goes to elementary schools to convince academically ambitious girls to apply. If they get into the lottery system, based on their essays and academic records, they still have to get lucky and be pulled from the lottery. A larger percentage of student openings are allotted to lower-income students, as it was part of Governor Ann Richards’ mission to give those girls an equal opportunity.
The UIL constitution made a rule many years back that any school that could recruit should automatically be in 6A. What it does not account for are unique situations many schools find themselves in, like if that recruitment is in an elementary school, and is further restricted by an application and lottery system.
Because of our incredibly unique process of admission, the constitution that UIL uses to redistrict does not have a category for us to fall into. Coach Brown has been trying to amend the constitution for years to no avail. In addition, we bus our girls from all over Austin and we “recruit” in elementary schools. Therefore, they put us in 6A because the only category we fit into is “magnet.” Schools that are not classified as magnet have similar recruitment and application processes to us but are not restricted by the lottery. These schools include the Liberal Arts and Science Academy and McCallum High School.
Now that everything has been logistically explained, let us explain this year’s dilemma. When Coach Brown appeals, the first process is for schools, those in the bracket we want to leave and those in the bracket we want to join, must unanimously approve the appeal. Everytime Coach Brown has appealed in the past, all schools have approved it and we are moved immediately. This year, Lockhart was moved into our district when we were moved into 6A, and out of all of the schools in both 5A and 6A, they were the only vote against our appeal.
In an interview with Coach Brown, the editorial staff asked for a reason that Lockhart voted against the appeal. Brown stated that they are not required to give a reason. In the appeal, they chose not to give one. All they are required to do is vote. There are rumors that they have some sort of grudge against our school, but none of this has been confirmed or even has a source to trace back to. Because of the timeliness of this staff editorial, we could not reach out to the school ourselves for a reason, but according to their record, they would most likely not give us one.
The final appeal at the state level will took place on Tuesday, February 20 and it did not pass, therefore our sports are officially 6A.
Overall, students are devastated. This decision only affects athletes, as the arts are in a different category and are redistricted separately. Speaking to athletes throughout this process of appeals, our staff has noticed a clear sense of defeat and fear.
Coach Brown states that if we are moved up to 6A she expects athletes to stay fully engaged and play for their love of sport and wellness. Even though we will play against schools like Bowie and Westlake, each with student bodies five times the size of ours and with which we have little to no chance to win, Ann Richards students are determined and passionate and will not be deterred. Coach Brown knows that it will be very emotionally tough on the athletes, as there is no way we will walk into Westlake level gyms the same way we walk into McCallum gyms. However, Coach Brown also knows appeals are fact-based and UIL decisions are made regardless of emotion.
On the bright side, playing against schools that athletic recruiters often observe in games might mean scholarship or discovery for some of our shining athletes. No matter how bleak this situation may seem for our athletes, there is always a bright side. There is always room for improvement.