The action by the Minnesota State High School League drew objections from at least one Metro West school.
Benilde-St. Margaret’s was assigned to the new Metro West Conference on Tuesday by the Minnesota State High School League placement committee, a move that disappointed existing conference schools.
The Metro West, which begins in 2014-15, includes seven public schools displaced by various dissolving conferences: Bloomington Jefferson, Bloomington Kennedy, Chanhassen, Chaska, Cooper, Richfield and St. Louis Park.
Benilde-St. Margaret’s, a private school located in St. Louis Park, had applied to join the Metro West, Lake and Northwest Suburban conferences, but all three conferences turned it down. That left the situation with the high school league's placement committe. The league's four criteria for placing a school in a conference are enrollment, geography, conference structure and comparable programs.
Andy Ewald, activities director at St. Louis Park, said his counterparts in the Metro West presented data on the numbers of students who speak English as a second language and those on free and reduced lunch to show the disparities with Benilde-St. Margaret’s.
“We felt strongly about the data we sent to the Minnesota State High School League about why Benilde-St. Margaret’s does not belong with us and why they would be a better fit in the Lake Conference,” Ewald said. “These seven schools came together for unique reason and were proactive about finding a home. We wanted to do something different for our kids and our communities. And it was exciting from an athletics standpoint to be able to say there isn’t one program that makes you think, ‘Gosh, we’re never going to beat this school.’
“So this takes some luster off it.”
Benilde-St. Margaret’s has enjoyed success in boys’ and girls’ soccer and hockey. The boys’ hockey team played an independent schedule last season to avoid the number of lopsided victories against North Suburban Conference teams.
Jerry Pettinger, activities director at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, said his school is “excited to be in the Metro West. The conference set out to give kids the best opportunity to compete and though we recognize the differences in demographics, adding us is a good fit.” Pettinger said the decision whether to keep the Red Knights boys’ hockey team independent must be made with the input of Metro West schools.
Ewald said his concerns about Benilde-St. Margaret’s are “nothing personal. But if you look at the criteria we used, they don’t fit. The other seven schools are communities going through some of the same changes at the same time.”
Metro West Conference members are expected to take up the Benilde-St. Margaret’s development at a previously scheduled meeting on Wednesday. The conference has up to 10 days to appeal the league's decision.
Two additional metro area private schools, St. Thomas Academy and Holy Angels of Richfield, are awaiting conference placement.