« The Daily Dose

SDHSAA slow to learn, but making progress

by Greg Belfrage

The South Dakota High School Activities Association is having a rough year.

Earlier this year, the SDHSAA was the subject of criticism by some lawmakers who felt the association wasn't complying with the state's open meetings law. The SDHSAA brazenly said they weren't subject to open meeting laws. The legislature responded with a vote requiring that the SDHSAA comply.

Game, set and match to the state legislature.

Earlier this month, the association was criticized by some for defeating a measure that would have given the state's largest schools more representation on the governing board. Sioux Falls hasn't been represented on the association's board of directors for nearly 20 years.

Much of the resistance is coming from smaller communities who are worried about losing state tournaments to Sioux Falls. The construction of the new Denny Sanford Premier Center, combined with existing facilities such as the Arena, have schools worried that Sioux Falls might get a lock on hosting coveted state basketball and football tournaments.

Earlier this week, the SDHSAA made headlines again for refusing a request by the Argus Leader to release the ballots from this month's vote.

At first blush, it would appear the association didn't learn much from this year's tangle with the state legislature.

SDHSAA Director Wayne Carney told the Argus, "It's like you voting for president, and then somebody asks when you come out, 'Could you please release how somebody voted?'"

That analogy is, of course, ridiculous. There's no comparison between the private votes of citizens and the votes of taxpayer-funded government institutions. Try conducting a secret vote of a school board using that analogy and see how far it gets you.

Within hours of an Argus Leader report detailing the decision to keep ballots secret... Carney abruptly reversed course. He said the ballots could be examined, but the Argus Leader would have to send a representative to Pierre to view them.

Argus Leader: SDHSAA allows partial access to school district ballots

It's time for the SDHSAA to quit living in the stone age. The good old days of being able to conduct business secretly and stonewall the media are coming to an end.

Admittedly, change is difficult.

While Carney's decision was hardly in the spirit of openness and transparency, at least it was a big step in the right direction.

Greg Belfrage @belfrageshow is heard 6am-9am on KELO 1320 AM and 107.9 FM. Greg can be reached at greg.belfrage@mwcradio.com.