In simple terms, the Madera Unified School District transfer policy is cut and dry.
Basically, if a student who is already enrolled in one school’s path (Madera or Madera South high school), and that student transfers to the other path, he or she must sit out one calendar year in athletics.
The district’s policy on transfers begins when students enroll in middle school.
“Our district is an attendance-based district,” MUSD director of athletics Marty Bitter said. “Wherever you reside, you go to school within that residence. District employees, under profession courtesy, can their child as many times as you want in elementary. All other students must attend the elementary school in the boundary in which they reside. Prior to the seventh grade parents have to choose to send your child to the Madera High School feeder path (Thomas Jefferson) or Madera South (Desmond or Martin Luther King) feeder path. If, after the seventh grade, even for district employees that move their children, regardless of why they moved them, that child has to sit one calendar year, athletically. They can move, but for athletic reasons, they have to sit one calendar year.”
Bitter states that the child must be in the attendance area of their school to begin their seventh grade year. This rule is even in effect for children of employees of the district.
“District employees are awarded a professional courtesy,” Bitter said. “They can put their son or daughter into a school of their choice, if there’s room. You cannot displace a student in that attendance area. The current board policy states that even if you’re a district employee, you have choose a school attendance path between your sixth and seventh grade year.”
Bitter also notes that a district employee is one that works enough hours to receive benefits from the district. Walk-on coaches are not district employees that can take advantage of professional courtesy. Professional courtesy transfers must choose a school (Madera High or Madera South) prior to entering the seventh grade. District Employees can still use their professional courtesy after the seventh grade and into high school but they forfeit one calendar year of athletic eligibility if they choose to do so.
However, once a child begins a high school, they are allowed to stay at that high school even if the family moves to the attendance area of the other high school.
“Once they start at a high school, that becomes their home school,” Bitter said. “If my parents move into another school area. I have two options. I can go to the other school, I have to sit one calendar year. Or, I can remain at my home school, even though I live in the other school’s area, with no penalty. That eliminates students transferring for athletic reasons.”
Bitter hopes that the penalty for transferring will hinder the thoughts about going from one school to another.
“We believe that we don’t want haves and have nots,” Bitter said. “We want to have strong programs at both of our sites. In order to do that, if the students go to the schools where they live, schools are going to be stronger for that. It eliminates the tug-of-wars that can happen between coaches. It eliminates recruitment. It eliminates athletes getting upset with a coach and wanting to go to another school.”
When Bitter started as the athletic director at Madera South about 10 years ago, there were about 100 transfers. Since then, the number has dropped to 30 and now down to about 10 that are questionable this year.
“Those are athletically inclined transfers,” Bitter said. “If you coach sport X at Madera High and you think a student in your attendance area has enrolled at Madera South for athletic reasons, for example.”
Bitter also said that if it is found that a parent knowingly falsified their home address in order to attend a different school, that student falls under the rule of the California Interscholastic Federation’s, the governing body of high school athletics in California.
“If you knowingly provide false information as to your residence, it’s a two-year sit,” Bitter said. “ If the child participates, all the games are forfeited.”
One of the biggest issues is letting the parents know what the penalties are for transferring for whatever reasons, Bitter said. He said that he wants to parents to know the rules before making a decision and know that their decision has ramifications.
Bitter also points out that the reason why the transfer policy begins in the middle school is because of the amount of work high school coaches are now putting into the middle school program.
“The reason for the middle school part of it is that our high school coaches work extremely hard and we have high expectations for them,” he said. “We want them to build programs from elementary school through the middle school. If you’re a coach, you’re investing in an athlete through the grades and all of the sudden the student wants to go to another school. That eliminates that. It’s not more prevalent in one school or the other.”
There are only two exceptions to the transfer policy. One concerns students attending a K-8 school like Howard or La Vina.
“For them, the transfer policy starts when they are ninth grader,” Bitter said. “ We would never make a country-school student go through kinder all the way through sixth and then at seventh grade, if they are a Howard student and want to go to Madera South, we say you can’t go to Howard, you have to go to La Vina. We don’t want to do that.”
The other exception to the rule is an administrative placement transfer.
“When we have a student that has special circumstance and student services office or CAO office deems the student needs to change schools, that’s out of the student’s control,” Bitter said.
Bitter knows that high school sports is now a part of a student getting recruited. However, it’s a big piece to the puzzle.
“High school athletics helps, but it’s just a piece to the puzzle,” Bitter said. “There’s nobody better than the high school coaches and teachers that knows these students on a regular bases. These college coaches are looking for character kids.”