Okinawa parents' group wants off-island competition for H.S. teams
November 26, 2003
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — A proposal to integrate Okinawa into regular-season high school sports schedules in Japan and Korea will be submitted to Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Okinawa and Pacific officials in the coming days.
The proposal is the latest in a series of moves by Lon LaGrave, head of a group of parents trying to overturn a ban on travel by student-athletes at Kadena and Kubasaki high schools to non-DODDS-sponsored events.
“We will come up with the proposal and send it out” to DODDS-Okinawa District Superintendent Gayle Vaughn-Wiles and DODDS-Pacific Director Nancy Bresell, LaGrave said after a meeting Monday night at Kadena’s Schilling Recreation Center that attracted 70 people, 20 of them Kadena and Kubasaki athletes.
DODDS district spokesman Henry Meyer, who attended Monday’s meeting, said DODDS is willing to discuss the issue but was skeptical of the plan’s feasibility.
“Let’s be real. We’re faced with a $15 million budget cut,” Meyer said after the meeting — a lively 90-minute session that featured contentious exchanges among parents, LaGrave and Meyer.
“I don’t see a willingness by this group to compromise,” Meyer said.“There has to be a middle ground. The question is, where is the middle ground? But we are willing to talk and we are willing to listen.”
LaGrave told the group that he wants the sports schedules for Japan, Okinawa and Korea to mirror Divisions I, II and III schedules for DODDS-Europe.
“That is our justification to travel to Japan and Korea,” said LaGrave, 52, a sixth-grade teacher at Bechtel Elementary at Camp McTureous who has two children who play sports at Kadena.
DODDS schools in Japan and Korea co-sponsor independent regular-season leagues, in cooperation with international schools in their areas.
The fact that Kadena and Kubasaki only face each other and don’t travel to other DODDS-Pacific schools until the season-ending Far East tournaments represents an “inequity” for students here, LaGrave said.
LaGrave said his group’s proposal will ask that school officials from Japan, Okinawa and Korea meet and discuss integrating the three regions into one schedule “as soon as possible.”