The Wauwatosa School District has filed a lawsuit against the WIAA over the conference realignment plan approved by the WIAA Board of Control in April, set to take effect in the 2017-18 school year.
With the lawsuit comes a request for an injunction to stall the realignment plan, which rearranges several schools in the greater Milwaukee area within the Classic 8, Wisconsin Little Ten, Greater Metro, Woodland and North Shore conferences. The legal maneuver seeks to compel the WIAA to scrap its current proposal and start anew.
Wauwatosa was among the districts seeking relief from the current conference alignment in the first place, but Tosa feels its two high schools (West and East) are left in even worse positions following the changes.
In the approved realignment plan, Wauwatosa West would move from the Woodland West to the Greater Metro. Wauwatosa East would stay in the Greater Metro, a league that will only get tougher with the addition of perennial state powerhouse Germantown. Initially, Tosa was hoping for a reverse maneuver, sending East to join West in the Woodland.
"It is really about the future competitive nature of Wauwatosa athletic programs and the ability to remain competitive and field teams," Wauwatosa School District Superintendent Phil Ertl said. "I think, ultimately, we looked at the process that went into place to get to the decision the WIAA came to as being problematic.
"We felt like it was not just something that just didn't go in our favor but was not done in a transparent way. We felt there were plenty of issues that need to be addressed."
Ertl believes that too much subjectivity went into the process, which lasted over two years and cycled through numerous realignment proposals.
One of the plans considered, which was proposed by the North Shore Conference, would have placed Wauwatosa West and Wauwatosa East in the Woodland. The Wauwatosa School District finds flaws in how the WIAA went away from that plan, which Ertl said had 80 percent approval among districts involved, to the approved plan that was presented by WIAA Associate Director Deb Hauser.
The WIAA Board of Control approved the Hauser Plan by a vote of 7-4.
"One of the comments I made when I talked to the WIAA is, 'Has there ever been a situation where a district has asked for relief and put in a worse position than we were?'" Ertl said. "Ultimately, we want them to go back and re-look at it and take their bylaws and rules into consideration.
"They clearly stated they know the process was flawed, yet they went ahead and voted it through anyway. They stated at the appeals hearing that they know the process is flawed and they are going to start working on changing the process, yet they went ahead and voted to put this into place. It really doesn't make any sense."
The WIAA released the following statement to WauwatosaNow on the lawsuit filed by the district:
"We acknowledge realignment can be an emotional issue. The WIAA Board of Control is delegated the authority to establish conference alignment within the membership. Oftentimes, unanimous or consensus agreement by schools involved is unattainable.
"Two years ago, the membership reaffirmed by a vote of 400-26 that the Board of Control continue to be responsible for conference realignment.
"With regard to the Southeast Wisconsin realignment, after considering several plans and providing numerous opportunities for schools impacted to engage in the discussion, as well as inviting the member schools to come back to them with a better plan, we believe the Board acted within the scope of their authority."
In the high-profile sport of football, Wauwatosa East has been unable to compete in the GMC, missing the playoffs each year since 2007 and going 14-99 overall in the years since. The Red Raiders did not win a game in 2015 and are currently facing a 12-game losing streak in league play.
Another school that has faced similar struggles in the GMC, West Allis Central, will be relocated to the Woodland under the new proposal. Across all sports, Tosa East finished in a three-way tie for the GMC boys volleyball title but did not win any other conference crowns in 2015-16.
"Not only does West get moved into a larger conference, but Germantown is added to it," Ertl said. "Even for East, we are in a worse position than we were in previously.
"There are so many schools trying to angle their way to conference championships and state playoffs. For us, it is not about that. It is about providing opportunities for kids. We're not stacking up conference championships. We're looking to make sure we can maintain programs and remain competitive so our kids have an opportunity to participate."
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