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Board votes down proposal to require 2.0 GPA of student-athletes

by Larry Chowning

The Middlesex County School Board voted 3-2 Monday not to adopt a proposed regulation requiring student-athletes to have a 2.0 grade point average (GPA) in order to participate in extracurricular activities.

The current policy is that students must pass five courses to participate.

Also, board members instructed school board chair Garland Harrow to come up with a participation policy “somewhere in-between” the current policy and the proposed policy that he feels he can support.

Harrow was the most vocal opponent of a 2.0 GPA policy. School board members Elliott Reed and Richard Shores also voted against the policy, while board members Claudia Soucek and Jim Goforth voted in favor.

Harrow said that the high school does not have the resources to help students in need to maintain the 2.0 GPA standard. “This (high school) is the only chance most children have to compete in a competitive sport and here we are providing them with a brand new facility and, right off the bat, we are placing new demands on them. I don’t consider that right.”

The new facility referred to by Harrow is the new Syd Thrift Athletic Complex that is near completion at Middlesex High School (MHS).

Reed said the 2.0 GPA rule would negatively impact those students who are the ones most positively impacted by extracurricular activities. “The kids that are going to be impacted are not the ones that have a silver spoon, or a mother and father at home. Until you walk in some of these kids’ shoes, you don’t know how hard it is. Right now sports and teams are keeping them motivated to stay in school and to make the best grades they can.”

MHS principal Jeannie Duke said she appreciates high achievement but noted that students learn a great deal about life from being on a team. “For some of our kids, their sports team is their other family,” she said.

Reed agreed and reminded the board that some people, such as basketball star Michael Jordan, made everyone on his team better players. “Also, being on a team can have a way of making you a better person,” he said.

Soucek said that the articles on the foreign exchange students attending MHS that have been appearing in the Southside Sentinel reveal that schools in other countries are much harder than those in the U.S. “All we are asking for is average,” she said. “We are asking to raise the bar to average, and I don’t think that is asking too much of our students.”

Goforth said there needs to be more effort by teachers and others to find ways to help students with learning challenges. He noted that when MHS had its state championship football team (1993), the football coach and his wife tutored players to make sure their grades stayed up. “That is what we need,” said Goforth.

During the discussion Harrow suggested that the standards gradually be raised by starting at a 1.6 GPA next year and “working from there.”

After the 3-2 vote, Goforth challenged Harrow to find that “in-between” way to raise the bar to accommodate his concerns.

Harrow agreed to do so.

posted 05.14.2014

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