Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins.
A trite saying, perhaps, but one that should be kept in mind Monday at the Georgia High School Association meeting in Forsyth, Ga.
In fact, the cliche should be paraphrased to fit the matter at hand: don't judge Evans High School until you've ridden a thousand miles on a bus.
The GHSA executive committee will be voting on an isolation clause that, if passed, would permit Evans to drop one classification and join a region closer to home.
On Oct. 1 the committee voted 39-6 to approve the request as a topic for further discussion. Since an isolation clause would be a constitutional change, the GHSA was required to wait 30 days before making a binding vote.
"We were real pleased to get that strong, positive vote that first time. People were really putting the needs of children ahead of athletic competition," said Tommy Price, Columbia County Superintendent of Schools. "I do know, too, that once the behind-the-scenes politics begin it can change the vote for all kinds of reasons."
When the final vote is tallied Monday, a two-thirds majority will be needed to pass the policy. Some Georgia schools, which do not like the prospect of having a larger school play down, have lobbied against an isolation rule, including schools in Region 3-AAAA, the region Evans would enter next school year.
At the original executive committee meeting, Region 3-AAAA presented a vote of its own - 8-0-1 against allowing Evans into their region.
Greenbrier High was one of the schools to vote no.'
"After the fact, they went on record that the vote was not from a full perspective for what it means for this county," said Price, who reportedly called Greenbrier on the carpet for the vote of no-confidence.
Greenbrier and others opponents of an isolation remedy for Evans are making judgments based strictly on competition.
"Looking at it from their own individual perspectives, they don't like the idea of a bigger school playing down. This is bigger than your own school's situation; it's a matter of doing what's best for kids," Price said.
Those who would consider voting against Evans should walk a mile in Mary Stout's moccasins.
Stout has been a teacher for 24 years, including 18 at Evans High, where she currently heads the English Department.
When Evans was placed in the Atlanta region before the 2000-01 school year, she began seeing a change in some student-athletes in her class.
"I can talk especially in detail about the softball players," Stout said. "I taught four of the five seniors (this fall), and those girls were out of class at least two to three days a week. They had a tremendously difficult time keeping up with the workload."
Stout has noticed that some athletes have had trouble staying awake in class after long road trips with 2 and 3 a.m. returns.
"It's difficult to get in so late, then come to school the next day and be focused," she says. "It's a big problem. Even the top student-athletes struggle with balancing that schedule. The kids are being punished."
The trials of travel are not imposed just on athletes, Stout points out. Debate teams and pupils participating in academic competitions also are affected.
And so is her son, John, an Evans sophomore who plays football and tennis.
"Having a child who participates in athletics, I feel the isolation clause should go through. I'm concerned about having a child spending four years of his high school career traveling," she said. "As a parent I'm anxious to hear about the vote, and as a teacher, I will be very concerned if this vote goes against Evans."
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