Chassell Schools faces severe criticism from parents of former students
HOUGHTON — Chassell School District’s principal and their Board of Education have come under fire after refusing to allow a student to transfer to another school over what the school says is a violation of Michigan High School Athletic Association rules.
Jane Rautiola said she and her husband, Jeff, had seven children enrolled in Chassell Township Schools, but in May decided to transfer them out of the district because they were unhappy with a number of issues.
Rautiola said that at the time, they informed the school administration of their decision and requested the (MHSAA) Educational Transfer Form be signed, so that their 12th grade son, Karl, would be able to compete in his chosen sports with his new school, Jeffers High School.
Rautiola said that Chassell Principal and Superintendent Stephen Spahn was the person with the authority to sign the MHSAA Educational Transfer Form, but when given the opportunity in August, he refused.
According to the MHSAA website, the Educational Transfer Form (ETF) must be completed by both school principals, certifying that the transfer is not significantly related to, or motivated by, athletics. The signed form should be returned signed to the MHSAA before the student participates in a game or scrimmage.
The website goes on to state that there are situations where a student may change schools after beginning the ninth grade and the student is not eligible in a sport played during the previous or current season, including exercising school of choice — even if from out of state or returning to the school of residence.
Freedom of Information Act records obtained by the Rautiolas, revealed that five minutes after receiving their May email, Spahn reached out to the School Board with the information that the Rautiolas had requested the ETF be signed.
“He emailed us back,” she said, “saying he will never sign the form.”
Spahn’s reason, she said, was because he believed the students were being transferred for athletic reasons and because, (where the other principal signs the form, she said), it states that it is in the best educational interest of the child.”
“He (Spahn) doesn’t believe there’s a better education in any other school,” said Rautiola.
The Rautiolas then met with the Education Committee, which consisted of three board members.
“We were met with coldness before the meeting began,” said Rautiola. “The decision was made on this issue before we had the chance to talk.”
Rautiola said that, at that meeting, they stated many reasons for their decision to transfer their children from the Chassell School in May, all of which were ignored or dismissed by the committee members. She asked if it mattered what she said during the meeting and was told, “No.”
The Daily Mining Gazette attempted to contact Spahn for comment twice on Monday afternoon, but was unable to reach him before press time. However, Aug. 16, 2021, minutes of the Chassell School Board regular meeting appear to corroborate Rautiola’s allegations.
The meeting minutes report that a discussion was held regarding the district’s boys basketball program. At the meeting, Coach Raphael Suomis said he wanted to coach one last year, but did not feel that Chassell could have both a junior varsity and a varsity team, because there were not enough students in the basketball program. Reviewing the numbers and assessing the player; losing two seniors in Daba Holms and Karl Rautiola, leaves one eighth grader, Grady Olson, and three sophomores, Oliver Campbell, Eli Danison and Mason Loukus.
“With that being said,” the minutes state, “It would be best to field one team or look at a co-op with Jeffers or Hancock.”
Jane Rautiola spoke during the public comment period and suggested that Chassell co-op with Jeffers for varsity basketball and Chassell can have their own JV team.
“Then Karl can play basketball,” she said.
Two parents said their players would be more comfortable playing JV ball, and two stated they would not co-op with Jeffers.
The minutes do not name another commenter who is reported as saying that if a co-op is done with Jeffers, the current group of players will not participate.
“Don’t scare away numbers by doing something rash,” the commenter is quoted as saying.
The discussion was terminated by Board President Randal Danison with the statement that the information would be taken to the Athletic Committee for review and recommendations.
During the period of committee reports, the Education Committee, comprised of B.J. Tervo, Peter Torola, Carl Olson and Spahn, reported that in July, they had met with Jane, Jeff and Karl Rautiola to discuss the educational best interests of the Rautiola children, as well as the MHSAA Educational Transfer Form Karl and his parents requested be signed.
The minutes state that following some discussion, the committee informed the Rautiolas that no action could be taken at committee level, and also that the MHSAA form is not, and will not be, a board decision, and that, “We, the board, respect and defer to Mr. Spahn’s insight and judgement related to that issue and ultimately what he decides.”