11/21/13 Principals oppose new standards for student-athletes

Principals oppose new standards for student-athletes
By Isaac Groves, The Times-News 11/21/13  
Reprinted with permission.      

   Heading to the Dec. 2 vote on proposed athletic eligibility standards, the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education has gotten a message from high school principals.

   They oppose it.

   “The traditional high school principals have discussed this policy, and we all feel that it is not in the best interest of the students,” Dave Ebert, principal of Eastern Alamance High School, wrote in an email to school board members sent Nov. 8.

   In a phone interview this week, Ebert said the principals of all six traditional high schools, the ones with their own sports teams, met and agreed to contact the board directly.

   A printed copy of the emails Ebert sent and a response from board Vice Chair Patsy Simpson was mailed to the Times-News this week with no return address.

   If proposed changes go through at the board’s public meeting Dec. 2, athletes would have to maintain a 2.0, or “C,” grade point average if they want to participate in sports.

   Students who fall short on grades could appeal to their principals to stay on teams. The appeal would mean making a personal education plan with parents, coaches and teachers signing on.

   If the student shows progress, a principal could allow him or her to play.

   The rules would not apply to disabled children in the Exceptional Children’s program.

   Since the proposal first came up last spring, there have been objections from coaches and athletic directors, saying some students on the edge might decide to drop out if they could not play sports, which is why the board created the appeals process and exception for disabled students.

   Ebert said he appreciates that the board was trying to address concerns with the appeals process, but it could lead to inconsistencies in how students are treated.

   Like many detractors, Ebert objects also to singling out athletes rather than making the policy apply to all extracurricular activities.

   Out of close to 1,000 student-athletes in the district, roughly 90 struggle to maintain a 2.0 GPA, according to ABSS.

   “Do we need a policy for just 90 kids?” Ebert said.

   Charlotte Holmes, principal of Graham High School, said the policy would limit her flexibility to make improvement plans for students while they play.

   High school students can now participate in sports if they have passed at least three courses, pass their grade and have an 85 percent attendance rate. These are the standards of the N.C. High School Athletic Association.

   The board has voted on the policy before as it worked its way through the approval process.

   Board members Tony Rose, Steve Van Pelt, Pamela Thompson, Brad Evans and Simpson voted in favor, while Jackie Cole and Kristen Moffitt voted against.

   Rose, Simpson and Thompson said this week they did not think they would change their votes.

   All three said the district needed to push for higher standards from all students, and they believed a higher standard would influence students to achieve, not drop out.

   “I believe in our kids, and I don’t think this is going to be a problem for them,” Thompson said. “I’m not going to sell them short.”

   Simpson said she did not think students would drop out if they had to make C’s to play.

   “I haven’t found one yet,” Simpson said.

   Rose agrees the policy should apply to other extracurricular activities. Other supporters on the board said they want to move ahead with athletics now and discuss a larger policy later.

   “I see it as the first step in the discussion,” Rose said.

   While she is willing to talk about it, Simpson said she did not think other activities take as much time.

   Cole said the principal’s message confirmed her opinion. Whenever she runs into a coach or principal; they always say the same thing.

   “They all told me this was not a good policy for children,” Cole said.