The Arizona Interscholastic Association legislative council took a giant step Friday toward diversifying the AIA’s committees and executive board, a legislative body that hasn’t reflected its student body in the past 100 years.
But a change, as AIA official Don Logan eloquently advocated for during Friday’s annual legislative council meeting, is coming. The legislative council voted to approve a proposed amendment that will now require the AIA’s conferences to nominate a female, a person of color and a male when there’s an executive board or committee member opening.
The legislative council, for the most part, was in favor of the diversity amendment at the start, but agreeing on whether the AIA’s executive board or the AIA’s conferences should select the future board or committee members proved difficult. After about two hours of debating, the legislative council approved the original diversity amendment, giving the AIA’s executive board the power to select future conference recommended board or committee members.
At least 30 of the 40 legislative council members in attendance at the AIA’s office Friday needed to vote yay for the diversity proposal to pass. The proposal passed with 32 yays.
“This was historic,” said Chuck Schmidt, the AIA’s associate executive director said, about Friday's diversity vote. “The ability to represent children as a 501(c)(3) entity has to be our primary objective, and when this (diversity) policy was instituted four years ago, it was a major shift as to how we did business. And it has worked.”
The diversity policy was first recommended by Mike Bejarano, a Tucson administrator and former AIA executive board member, four years ago.
This year, Amphitheatre District Athletic Director Joe Paddock, the Class 4A conference rep on the AIA’s executive board, recommended that the policy should become a bylaw.
Before Friday’s vote, AIA executive director Dr. Harold Slemmer opened the diversity debate with a speech about “being behind the times” and the importance of the diversity proposal before introducing Logan. Logan has served as an AIA official for 20 years and was injured in 2004 when a package sent by twin white supremacist brothers to Logan exploded.
Logan was the Director of Scottsdale’s Office of Diversity and Dialogue when he received the package. On Friday, he didn’t talk about what happened in 2004, but Logan did urge the legislative council to vote for a more inclusive AIA executive board.
Glendale District representative and legislative council member Jim Threadgill applauded the AIA’s executive board for the diversity proposal, but he was in favor of letting the conferences pick the board and committee members instead of the AIA’s executive board. Threadgill said he wanted to make sure that experienced representatives were picked to serve on the board.
“It’s not democratic when a board choses its own members,” said legislative council member Doug Meyer of Arizona Lutheran.
Also present Friday at the AIA’s office was Reverend Jarrett Maupin, a civil rights activist, who told the legislative council to trust the AIA’s executive board to make the right decisions.
But the last person to talk before the diversity proposal vote was taken was Jim Love, one of nine school board members serving on the legislative council. Love was sitting in a front row during Friday's meeting but stood up and turned around to address the legislative council as he gave a passionate speech about the importance of focusing on the students council members serve.
“What we miss in the big picture is what are we doing for the kids,” Love said. “We lose sight of that when we try to figure out who is in charge. We have tried for the past 50 years (to have a more diverse executive board), and we haven’t done it. They (conferences) have had the opportunity to do it and haven’t done it.”
It’s believed that only one African-American and one Native American have served on the AIA’s executive board in the past 100 years.
Love and Schmidt agreed that more work needs to be done to get more voices heard, including conference members. But one of the first big steps toward accomplishing that was taken Friday.
“Today was huge,” said Love after the legislative council meeting. “It was huge. I was very happy to see what happened.”
More big news
Friday’s diversity vote dominated the legislative meeting, but it wasn’t the only important proposed amendment that was passed.
The amendment to raise the fees schools pay to officials also passed. Since 2009, the AIA has seen a 21.5 percent drop in officials registrations because other organizations are paying officials more to work at their events.
“It’s huge,” said the Gary Whelchel, the AIA’s state commissioner of officials, about the pay increase for officials. “We are bleeding officials. This isn’t a transfusion. But this is going to stop the bleeding, and it’s going to help us in the recruiting efforts.”