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COMMENTARY

LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD

Cooperation overcoming opposition
By: Jim Linsdau, Sports Editor
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In last week’s column was discussed Western Sierra Collegiate Academy’s (WSCA) political issues in finding facilities for participation in sports. The academy is a charter school located in Rocklin and has grown beyond its original founding principles.

Dave Patterson, who was one of the original founders of Rocklin Academy of Schools and now serves on the Placer County Board of Education, said the battle to become a sanctioned charter school became too costly to push for anything more than the initial intent.

“The Western Sierra founders and the viewpoint of the rest of the board believed, and still believe, that the purpose of education is, in fact, academic preparation for both college and life,” Patterson said. “It was a very, very difficult and contentious time to get (the charter) approved. While we knew we were entitled to state funds through Prop 39, we knew they would not provide it. We knew all it would do was end up in court.”

After the high school was eventually established, the need for sports became apparent. Some students were leaving the academy for public schools because they offered greater athletic opportunities.

Western Sierra began to expand its athletic programs and found they had plenty of willing participants, but no place to play.

The charter school had a gymnasium, but had to go outside Rocklin in order to find fields for soccer, softball, baseball and football. That meant additional travel, something former academy baseball coach Colin Dalton said cost his team a lot of practice time.

WSCA not only lost practice time, but also time to develop students who had never played sports. The lack of experience and facilities put the Wolves at a serious disadvantage.

Adding sports did attract student-athletes in search of a good education and an opportunity to play. But as Western Sierra rose to Division V, they had to play against schools with both experience and facilities.

“Fields turned out to be one of the toughest nuts to crack. The school facility, itself, is very functional because that’s what finances would allow,” Patterson said. “It’s a complicated situation (for charter schools). There’s always the understanding that sports play a role; they’re just not the primary role.”

Western Sierra Parent Kevin Cooper spearheaded a drive to help alleviate the dilemma and has made progress, but there is still a long way to go.

Although Patterson is no longer on the academy’s board, he said he stays involved and shares in Cooper’s efforts to demonstrate Rocklin can solve its problems.

“The only thing that strikes me is that I think the time has come for us all is to think about all your community and not to get hung up whether it’s a traditional public school or charter public school, or private,” Patterson said. “Open conversation as to what everybody’s needs are and how to best serve everybody.”

It is something that can be resolved and where there is willingness there’s a way cooperation can overcome opposition.