The organization that represents Texas’ Catholic high schools on Thursday called for a comprehensive review of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, calling TAPPS’ treatment of Jewish and Muslim schools unacceptable.
“Failure to sufficiently improve the structure and management of TAPPS will require a re-examination of our 43 Catholic schools’ continued affiliation with TAPPS,” wrote Margaret McGettrick, education director of the Texas Catholic Conference Education Department.
Those schools represent 20 percent of TAPPS’ membership.
She urged that a review committee represent the association’s “denominational, institutional and geographic diversity, to ensure that the issues and concerns of all members are accounted for and addressed.”
The letter follows TAPPS’ refusal – until it was sued – to reschedule its state basketball playoffs to accommodate a Class 2A boys team from Beren Academy in Houston. It also cites TAPPS’ rejection of a Houston Muslim school, the Iman Academy, for membership.
The letter was forwarded to the TAPPS board for review, said Edd Burleson, the association’s longtime executive director.
After the Beren and Iman disputes, TAPPS sent a survey to every member school to help determine the association’s direction, Burleson said.
“Do they want the TAPPS board to accept without question any private or parochial schools?” he asked, referring to TAPPS members. “And if you do, do you want TAPPS to adjust its rules to accommodate every need of every school or every individual? Just tell us what you want to do, so that we’ll know how to proceed.”
The survey is a step in the right direction, said the Rev. Robert Busch, superintendent of the Diocese of Amarillo and president of the state’s Roman Catholic school superintendents.
“It does ask some important questions,” he said. “Sometimes survey questions can be a little too black and white, though. We would like to see TAPPS do more than just a survey to its schools.”
Flap over game times
Beren Academy, an Orthodox Jewish day school whose boys basketball team advanced to the state semifinals this month, was initially forced to forfeit its spot because game times for the semifinal and ensuing championship game conflicted with the Jewish Sabbath. The school appealed the decision twice, but was denied both times.
The school and TAPPS drew national attention, and after parents filed lawsuits, Beren was allowed to play in the rescheduled semifinal. The Stars won and reached the championship game, which also was rescheduled. Beren lost that game.
“The goal with TAPPS is to represent yourself in a dignified and respectful manner in competition, and that is a very good message,” said Rabbi Harry Sinoff, head of the upper school at Beren Academy. “The more people you include, the more that message is spread, and that is a good thing.”
Iman was denied membership in 2010. Cindy Steffens, an Iman administrator, said this month that a TAPPS questionnaire sent to the academy contained “loaded and provocative” questions. Other Islamic schools withdrew from the process after receiving the questionnaire, but Iman officials later interviewed with the TAPPS Executive Board.
“After what happened with the Islamic school, we requested a meeting with TAPPS and visited with their directors for an hour or so,” Busch said. “We decided to take the wait-and-see route since we had brought up our concerns to them.”
In addition to Burleson and TAPPS associate director Bryan Bunselmeyer, the board consists of administrators from nine schools. The current president is Jon LeBrasseur, athletic director of Muenster Sacred Heart.
That board’s decisions will be watched closely by the Catholic schools, McGettrick said.
“If there was no change in the internal direction of TAPPS, (leaving) would be a strong possibility,” she said.