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MIAA Board of Directors agrees to create urban schools ad hoc committee

Avery Esdaile, athletic director for Boston Public Schools, addressed the MIAA board on behalf of a group of ADs from urban areas across the state.
Avery Esdaile, athletic director for Boston Public Schools, addressed the MIAA board on behalf of a group of ADs from urban areas across the state.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

The MIAA Board of Directors took a crucial first step Wednesday in providing urban schools across Massachusetts a larger voice in high school athletics and other business.

By a 20-0 vote, the board agreed to create an urban schools ad hoc committee to serve as an advisory resource to various MIAA committees. Avery Esdaile, athletic director for Boston Public Schools, addressed the board on behalf of a group of ADs from urban areas across the state, which has been meeting regularly to address challenges and other issues their programs face.

“We want to see the group get to, and ultimately be a resource and utilize the different people and experiences that we have, and help out others in the association,” Esdaile said.

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Esdaile was joined in the virtual meeting by MIAA assistant director Mike Rubin (formerly of East Boston High), as well as Randolph AD Tony Price and Chicopee schools AD Sean Mackin.

Rubin said the process started a few years ago with a sub-group during the MIAA’s annual meeting, which led to the first urban athletic directors forum the following year.

“The mission has been to gain full recognition for this group,” said Rubin, noting there have been 30-plus members participating in each meeting. “It’s an enthusiastic and great group to work with, and I’m excited about the possibilities of the urban ADs to get full recognition from the MIAA.”

Price said one of the group’s goals is to get better urban schools representation across MIAA committees.

“Just to share our challenges, so people can get the voice on the other side of the table with what we’re experiencing,” Price said. “There are some hurdles we deal with, and we just want to make sure our voice is heard with various committees.”

One of Mackin’s initiatives has been developing an “urban schools modifier” tool that can be used by the MIAA’s Tournament Management Committee to assist with alignments for the statewide tournament. Currently, the TMC has modifiers for parochial and vocational schools, but officials have cited the multiple challenges with placing urban schools strictly by enrollment — particularly in sports such as football and hockey in which participation numbers can be lower.

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Mount Greylock AD Lindsey von Holtz asked whether the concept could be expanded to create ad hoc committees for other areas of the state that face particular challenges. Duxbury AD Thom Holdgate agreed, saying that approving the urban schools ad hoc committee “creates a footprint” for others to follow.

In other business from Wednesday’s meeting:

▪ By an 11-9 vote, the board rejected a motion to reconsider its vote from last month to allow for 15-player game-day rosters in basketball this season as a COVID-19 modification.

Brookline AD Peter Rittenburg reiterated his concern from November’s meeting that the board changed the recommendation of the MIAA Sports Medicine Committee of a 12-player limit, without consultation. That vote also passed, 11-9.

“We’re athletic directors, superintendents, school committee members. We’re not medical,” Rittenburg said. “It feels odd that it didn’t go back to them for guidance.”

MIAA executive director Bill Gaine told the board he has received a letter from the Sports Medicine Committee, which voted, 21-1, to voice its disappointment with the board’s November action. However, Gaine noted that the Board of Directors has final jurisdiction on such matters.

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“I understand we have the right, I don’t want [the Board of Directors] to be a rubber-stamper,” Rittenburg said. “I would hope we would defer to those committees that do have the expertise.”

▪ Holdgate, co-chair of the COVID-19 Task Force, updated the board that Tuesday’s announcement by Gov. Charlie Baker to push back the state to Phase 3, Level 1 status does not change the MIAA’s plans for winter sports, and that any decisions to participate remain at the school, league or district levels. Holdgate added there is an expected update to guidance from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs regarding spectator limits at winter events.

Holdgate also clarified that, though basketball teams can carry 15 players on rosters, only 12 will be allowed on the floor at one time for warm-ups. Additional players would have to rotate in and out, or warm up in a side area.

▪ The board received an update from Student Advisory Committee co-chairs Emma Dahl (Foxborough) and Julia Trager (Wahconah) on that group’s initiatives, which include: expanding unified sports; mental health awareness; diversity, equity, and inclusion; community service competitions; and enhanced school spirit.

▪ By a 20-0 vote, the board recommended Holdgate as vice president, as well as chair of the Finance Committee, for a two-year term beginning in July 2021. Von Holtz, who currently holds both positions, will replace outgoing MIAA president Jeffrey Granatino (Marshfield superintendent) as part of the board’s two-year cycle. Holdgate’s nomination will go before the full MIAA membership for a vote.

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