Governor supports unified high school sports, urges reversal of board directive

In this file photo from March 22, 2019, Father Duenas player Brian Anderson runs the ball against the George Washington Geckos during the IIAAG Boys Rugby Finals at the GW High School Field in Mangilao.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero does not want a split of high school interscholastic sports.

That’s the message she delivered to Guam Education Board Chairman Mark Mendiola multiple times in a personal meeting on Nov. 19, and again in a letter to him delivered late Friday, Nov. 29.

The letter was shared with the Pacific Daily News via Terry Debold, president of the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam, and its contents verified by the governor’s Chief of Staff Tony Babauta. Debold, who has been against a split since its inception, was at the Nov. 19 meeting with Mendiola and Leon Guerrero.

“(The governor) was very clear that she wanted the board to reverse its decision. She said ‘reverse’ at least three times,” said Debold. “Mark Mendiola said he would take it to the board.”

In her letter, Leon Guerrero asked Mendiola when the education board would meet to reverse its decision, and also asked if a meeting between him, Debold and Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez had yet taken place. Debold said on Sunday one had not.

The Guam Education Board was scheduled to meet Nov. 26 but did not because of Tropical Storm Kammuri. A rescheduled meeting has been set for 6 p.m. Dec. 6 at the education department’s Building B in Tiyan.

Preparations

The Guam Department of Education has been preparing for the split, scheduled to go into effect at the turn of the new year. In May 2019, the Education Board voted to take over direct operations of the interscholastic sports program and to prohibit the outsourcing of the program for at least two years. It was the culmination of efforts by board member James Lujan, who had brought up issues with the IIAAG since 2018.

In response to the directive from the board, Fernandez assembled a team led by Acting Sports Coordinator Al Garrido, who created proposed schedules for third quarter sports. The schedules were created to focus on play within Guam DOE’s six public high schools, with options in some sports for interleague play with Guam’s private high school athletes.

The IIAAG members were left with too few teams to run leagues in some sports and were advised to seek membership with Guam DOE’s new organization, Interscholastic Sports Association, or ISA.

Three days after the private meeting with the governor, the Guam DOE sent out a news release reaffirming its commitment to run its own leagues. In the release, Mendiola was quoted as follows:

“This was not a decision we made overnight, and I want to make sure that I am representing our entire organization as we move forward,” he said. “I have confidence that we can co-exist with the private schools — we are currently doing it in the middle schools, so I know we can have a successful program in the high schools as well.”

Under a split program, the third quarter sports that will be affected are rugby, girls softball, boys basketball and tennis. Regardless of a split, the IIAAG will kick off the inaugural first season of girls beach volleyball, which the Guam DOE does not yet recognize.

Fourth quarter sports comprise girls soccer, boys volleyball, paddling and track and field. The IIAAG will also kick off bowling, which the Guam DOE also does not recognize.

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