Friday, May 17, 2019

The Scholastic Council Should All Resign

The Scholastic Council should all resign.
      Let me backtrack.  In late March, Nura Baala, 7th grade, 1900, transferred from Success Academy to IS 318. She had been constantly disciplined at Success for minor infractions-- if you don't know this charter chain's reputation, it's for military style discipline and daily standardized test practice.
   At Girls Nationals, a week and a half after she transferred, Success complained that she should not be allowed to play.  The head TD, Jeff Weibel, did not speak to us to ascertain the facts of the case. He simply removed Nura from the team, changed her team code from 318NY to 318Ny (in order to "not hurt her feelings") and DID NOT TELL US ANYTHING AT ANY POINT. The organizer of the event, NTD David Heiser, came in Sunday morning to tell us they had changed their minds because banning transfer students wasn't in any rules at all, and we were like "what? you did what?" He apologized to us and said there was absolutely no rule prohibiting her playing.
   The simple failure to communicate is ridiculous on every level.  Why wouldn't you at least ask us how long she had been going to 318? Or tell us when you remove a top player from our team? How is that acceptable behavior on a most basic human level?
     But ok, we aren't vindictive people and we didn't make a fuss.

     A week later, three days before junior high nationals begins, we get a letter from Boyd Reid saying "US Chess has long striven to avoid schools purposely recruiting players for the purpose of assembling so-called scholastic “superteams”, under the reasonable belief that this would create an unfair competitive imbalance.  Allowing a player to transfer to a new school in the same academic semester as a national tournament, and then permitting that player to join the new team immediately, flies directly in the face of that tradition."
 . They cited a rule for national youth events that reads:

4 TEAM REQUIREMENTS FOR NATIONAL YOUTH EVENTS This Section describes Team requirements for National Youth events only—e.g., the U.S. Junior Chess Congress, the National Youth Action Championship, and the U.S. Junior Open. For Team Requirements that apply to other National Scholastic events, please see Rule 13.2.

This rule clearly states it does not apply. Boyd then cites NCAA rules, and national high school athletic association rules, none of which even remotely apply.

The Scholastic council voted 5-0-2 to allow Boyd Reed to remove Nura from our team. The Scholastic Council are largely private school coaches with strong personal interests in hurting other teams. Sunil and Danny Rohde "abstained" but they abstained only to make themselves look innocent after it was obvious the measure would pass.

We complained to the USCF executive board, and they overturned the Scholastic Council's ruling 5-2, saying "Section 13 which covers team composition at national scholastic events does not include any language requiring the player to attend the school they are playing for at the national scholastic to be enrolled at that school for the entire semester."  It is extremely rare for the EB to get involved in scholastic issues, but they recognized that this decision was ridiculous. 

Either this was a blatant attempt by Boyd Reed, Sunil Weermantry, Beatriz Marinello, Joe Lonsdale, Robby Adamson, Eric Vigil, and Danny Rohde to cheat, or they lack 6th grade reading comprehension skills. I see no other way to understand the situation. 

It seems relevant to mention that Speyer Legacy, one of Sunil's teams, is famous for recruiting a very large percent of their team .

And while we're talking about cheating, Sunil's school, Bronxville, that came second in the K-12 Under 1900 section, had two eighth grade students from the middle school illegally playing on the high school team.  While the elementary, high school and junior high are in the same building, they have separate principals and thus are considered different schools, per USCF regs that Sunil helped write. So he clearly knew he was cheating.

I used to be an active member of the larger Scholastic Committee, which elects the Scholastic Council. I was removed by Sunil without my knowledge or consent because he decided "there were too many New York people." He does not respond to my emails asking to be reinstated.  He obviously removed me to consolidate political power.

The Scholastic Council is made up of people with strong vested interests and they have shown themselves to be biased. I no longer have faith in any of them. They should all be deeply personally  ashamed to have made up rules in such a totally ludicrous fashion to try to cheat a little girl. They have abused their positions and they should all resign.


Anonymous said...

Crazy stuff... not to mention private school kids have an age advantage being older than public school kids. Speyer has recruited players from public schools and in at least one case had them play in the same grade again at grade nationals...

With all that money, you would think they shouldn't have to cheat... (but then again, maybe that's how they got the money in the first place!)

gurdonark said...

I lack any first-hand knowledge regarding the facts set forth in the post. So I will not address the individual student's and school's situation.

But the question of alleged recruiting or transfer for purposes of changing teams is one that comes up often in Texas in the sports context, and in particular in the high school football context. It interested me to look at how the Texas school-sports-governing body deals with allegations that a student should not be allowed to play as a transfer. Though chess is not football, it interests me to compare the rules and standards applied.

I found language in the Constitution. Subchapter M of the University Inter-Scholastic League (UIL) which deals with this topic. The pertinent parts can be found here:

Subchapter M, Section 400 provides that a student should not be "recruited".
Subchapter M, Section 440(d) requires that an eligible transfer student "(d)did not change schools for athletic purposes (see Sections 5 and 443]"
Subchapter M, Section 443 contains a detailed set of criteria to apply to the issue of "transfer for athletic purposes", and also provides a clearance process for students who played on one sports team and then transferred to file a disclosure of the fact with the UIL and get (or fail to get) clearance for play.

The point I am making is that while rules forbidding transfers for chess team purposes may be a positive good, the ideal rules would set out detailed criteria to ensure that everyone knows the standards applicable before an issue arises. My review of the USCF scholastic rules suggests to me that they are less detailed in describing the rules of the road on this point.

So without having a "dog in the hunt" of this particular post, the issue sounds like one that may require in part a more detailed set of rules to address the issue, as opposed to a disqualification ruling that one can argue was without a foundation in the rules (as you advise that you did in a successful appeal)

If I read your post correctly, the concern is that the rules on the books were not violated or circumvented. Though I would never state that Texas football should be an example for NY chess, I think it is meaningful to point out that spelling out the rules before the school year begins is probably a better practice than (speaking hypothetically, without reference to this situation) trying to fill any perceived gaps in the rules after a tournament has ended.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding? 318 couldn't even win with Nura, and 318 is very well known for practically recruiting many players from local elementary schools. Many people, the most prominent example being Justus Williams back when the program was successful, commute to 318 from across the city. Your players are notorious for behaving badly, and even received attention when a student of 318 (now a graduate) was caught cheating using an engine. It looks very suspicious when a 1900 rated 7th grader joins a school right before a major tournament; did you not except to receive some criticism? It is also worth pointing out that recruiting Nura would be very easy as her father is a chessmaster himself. IMO, you're lucky there was even a vote because anyone, with no prior knowledge and just a story of what happened, would think that this was a clear cut case of recruitment. You were kicked off the board because you don't have the ability to assess that this situation looks very bad from the outside. Be careful while insulting many powerful people; Nakamura's dad, a CEO, and 5 other very successful coaches.

JJ said...

#FreeNura she's too talented to not be allowed to compete for a team.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

I think you might be confused about how the NYC public school system works. Every elementary school student applies to a ranked list of middle schools. Often public school kids who live a reasonable distance and love chess choose to apply because they get the team experience, lots of free chess instruction, chaperoned trips to tournaments, as well as a great general education. We don't recruit anyone. We offer tours, like all schools, and I try to be warm to prospective parents, but that's it.

Anonymous said...

Henry Kissinger once quipped that the reason department politics in universities are so vicious is because the stakes are so small. That seems to be the case here as well. Come on, everybody - we're talking about a section in a scholastic tournament devoted to a board game. Let's keep our eye on the ball, here, which is still being educators and using chess to advance education. Somewhere in all this, we're losing sight of the proper roles (and role models) for teachers, coaches and administrators. We can ALL do better.

Ketty Sena said...

May I clarify in this conversation that Nura was not at all recruited by IS 318 ? I know this for a true fact because I am her mother....
My daughter ended up being psychologically distressed by how extreme the disciplinary impositions had become at SA. My daughter was being destroyed psychologically and emotionally.
I looked at IS 318 for a transfer simply because I wanted a school that had a very involved chess coaching program. My daughter simply LOVES chess. Her passion for is intense and has true meaning in her life.
It is quite insulting that you would even mention my husband as a person to influence my daughter's recruitment to this school. I have never allowed influence to surround the decisions made for my daughter. Nura has worked very hard to become the chess player that she is. Her stepdad might be a step-dad, for if you would know truly who he is, then you would be aware he is a very humble man who, even if he was Nura's coach for her earlier years, doesn't use influence to better our family. He is decent and would not engage in creating a fantasy world for my daughter's advancement.
I understand that the situation might look suspicious, but to make such statement when in reality there was no recruitment at all, is not nice, it's simply vile.
Maybe you should know the truth of what motivated SA to try to have my daughter disqualified: they were vindictive. When I first spoke with the people in charge of the chess program explaining Nura was suffering at SA and I might consider transferring her, they immediately begged for me to reconsider and informed me that they were planning to financially invest on Nura's chess career during the 8th grade. In addition, you should know that Nura was already qualified to receive a $39,000 scholarship from SA once she graduated from her high school. So, do you think we would renounce such a scholarship just to help another chess team win? I think not.
We really needed that scholarship for my daughter's university future. My husband might be a chess coach and chess master, and I might have a stable job, but we are not people of means. We live very modestly. Especially now that my husband is dying of ALS and medical expenses are high, we don't have the luxury of limiting my daughter's financial opportunities through chess. So, you can imagine how extreme the psychological bullying was at SA, that in spite of our delicate situation, I had to remove my daughter from their school urgently.
Again, Anonymous, please be mindful next time you suggest my husband uses his name and chess level to cheat my daughter into opportunities. In our home, that is simply NOT DONE.

Unknown said...

Weird that Anonymous thinks the child (and the school) are not entitled to basic due process. It's fundamental to our way of life that no action be taken against someone except after they are informed, and have been given an opportunity to respond. Plus action must be based on the rules as then written, and announced ahead of time. If the rules don't cover the situation, write new rules, to be applied next time, not ex post facto.
Seen from the viewpoint of schools and competition and championships, it is possible to think the action is a small potato, but that doesn't justify high-handed decisions. Seen from the viewpoint of the individual player, disqualification was outrageous and extremely hurtful. It will only teach her that grown-ups make up the rules as they go, and do what they want. Combined with her unfortunate experience at the private school, it suggests you just can't be treated fairly.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

Right, “both sides”

Steve Hewlett said...

Wow! Ms. Spiegel, you must be quaking in your shoes after reading "Be careful while insulting many powerful people; Nakamura's dad, a CEO, and 5 other very successful coaches." posted by Anonymous.

The kids are the losers here in my opinion, through no fault of their own. The real "losers" are the adults on the Scholastic Committee.

Unknown said...

Excellent information, I like your blog.

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