September 03, 2009
|Board Raises Smart Quotient For Athletes|
The Guilford County Board of Education, at its meeting on Thursday, August 27, wrapped up its response to the long-running athletics problems at Northern Guilford High School, approving a new policy on eligibility standards for interscholastic athletics at county schools, in an attempt to prevent similar problems at other county high schools.
The new policy cracks down on the documentation process for student eligibility, a week after a lawsuit by Northern players resulted in the release of the school system's records of the lengthy investigation into the issues that cost Northern its state 3A boys varsity basketball championship and was marked by the resignations of Northern Principal Joe Yeager and Athletic Director Derrell Force.
The new policy more strictly defines the documents that can be used to prove eligibility, creates an Athletic Eligibility Committee to review those documents, and gives the committee authority to suspend students filing false documents for up to a year without waiting for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) to punish schools and teams for violations.
Guilford County School Superintendent Mo Green, in his affidavit in the suit, said that athletic eligibility files at Northern were "thoroughly inadequate," with some student files missing entirely and others lacking the required student participation forms or containing conflicting information or having no leases for the students' families.
School board members, after weeks of debate over the relative merits of different required grade point averages (GPA) for student athletes, opted for a stronger requirement. Students will be required to have a GPA of 2.0 to play sports. The requirement will be phased in, with students being required to earn a 1.5 GPA in 2009-2010 and then a 2.0 GPA in 2010-2011.
The school board approved the policy by a 9-to-2 vote, with school board members Amos Quick and Paul Daniels voting against it.
Quick was the most vocal critic of the policy, although he said he agreed with 99 percent of it. He said his vote was a protest vote over the remaining 1 percent – the policy's 365-day waiting period for students who have filed false documents, which he said made penalties stiffer for students than for adults.
Quick said, "For some students, this wipes out any hope or any chance of them pursuing any further education."
Contacted later, Quick said the school board members agreed that new athletics rules and tougher sanctions were needed. But he said those sanctions fell disproportionally on students.
"The only heartburn I have is that it does not seem that adults are held to accountability in the same way as the students are," he said. "I don't care if an 18-year-old is 6 feet tall and 280 pounds, he can be manipulated by adults. There should be more accountability in the rules for adults, and I didn't see that."
School board member Nancy Routh said she, too, didn't like the idea of a student being punished for something an adult did, but that the policy was a good one overall. "I feel it is the right thing to do," she said. "This helps us make our athletic programs move ahead."
School board Chairman Alan Duncan asked paid-by-the-hour school board attorney Jill Wilson to explain the reasoning behind the 365-day waiting period.
Wilson replied that the NCHSAA last year adopted a 365-day rule, but under that rule the entire team can be ruled ineligible because of false eligibility documents filed by a single player. She said that giving the committee the authority to enforce the same waiting period would protect teams and schools when a false document is filed. "We can say, 'Foul!' the minute we get it," she said.
Wilson and Guilford County Schools Athletic Director Leigh Hebbard said the only two cases in which a student would get a year-long waiting period for athletic eligibility will be the filing of false documents, and long-term suspension from a school.
The school board also approved a series of budget adjustments based on the final state budget, including the restoration of $1.1 million for the addition of at least 20 teacher positions to account for class size adjustments, and the restoration of $55,200 in funding for PSAT tests. In a previous cut, the board had approved funding for PSAT tests for 10th-grade students only. The school system will now pay for tests for 11th-graders too.
The school board, without a vote, dropped a proposal by Daniels to reduce the cost estimates for schools on the list for construction with the bonds approved by voters in May 2008. Daniels argued that, because of the recession, construction costs are in deflation, rather than inflation, and that the 7.5 percent inflation figures built into the 27 projects on the list, which total $412 million, are too high. "In light of that, I don't think it's enough to say we're at or under budget," he said.
Duncan said he didn't agree with doing that.
"The recalibrations will become extremely confusing over time," he said. "If I thought it was going to give us more meaningful, helpful information, then I would certainly do it."
Surprisingly, school board member Garth Hebert, a fiscal conservative, also spoke against Daniels' proposal.
Hebert said that, in his day job, he is involved in several ongoing construction projects, and that inflation is running ahead of expectations for many commercial products, including for steel and asphalt.
Hebert said he originally approved the 7.5 percent inflation figure as too high. He said it may still be too high, but that a genius with all the data in the world couldn't predict it. "The numbers are fluctuating each day in the marketplace," he said. "I wanted to see us way under budget. I don't see it."
The school board also unanimously approved posting the name "John Primm Gymnasium" for the Northeast Guilford High School gymnasium on the school system website for 30 days of public comment.
The gym would be named after John Primm, who was a teacher, coach and athletic director at Northeast Guilford Middle and High schools for 37 years, until he retired in January. Twenty of those years, he also worked as a history teacher at the high school.
Duncan said that, during the 30-day comment period, people would be able to submit other names. Several speakers spoke in favor of Primm, one telling the school board that Primm didn't miss a day of work in 37 years.
The school board tabled a proposal by Joe Stafford – who frequently speaks at school board meetings and proposes names for new schools and new names for old schools – to rename Madison Elementary School specifically after James and Dolley Madison. School officials said the school was originally named for Madison Township, which itself may have been named after the president and his wife.
Several school board members spoke against Stafford's proposal, attacking the Madisons as slave owners.
School board member Sandra Alexander said she would have wholeheartedly supported Stafford's proposal until a recent 60 Minutes piece on the Madisons as slave owners. She said the piece put a stain on the Madison legacy.
School board member Kris Cooke said she would have voted to put the name change out for comment, but didn't see a need for the change.
"I just don't know why we are going to rename a school now," she said. "It's Madison Elementary, and it always has been. I just don't know why we need to stir the pot."