Ignacio School Board looks at tougher eligibility standards for students

Policy would affect all extracurricular activities, not just sports

Starting this fall, Ignacio students who want to participate in sports or other extracurricular activities will have to maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average with no Fs, according to a policy being considered by the school board.

They discussed the issue at their May 8 meeting and will consider the policy first reading at a special meeting on May 21.

Activities Director Rocky Cundiff said, "We're trying to move into standards-based education, to get kids to participate and hold them accountable. Our goal is to implement this next year."

IHS Spanish teacher Jennifer McKenzie added, "Another thing is to make it simpler for students, parents, the AD. No Fs ever, 2.0 cumulative GPA, no warnings."

Cundiff said, "Warning weeks are gone."

McKenzie clarified, "It will allow students to play with a D. They could have one and maybe two and still play. That's their warning."

Some board members had concerns. Eligibility is determined each Monday.

"It puts a lot of onus on teachers to keep grades updated," Agnes Sanchez said.

Troy Webb also was concerned about "teachers doing their job in a timely manner. There's no penalty for the teacher, but there's a penalty for the student" if grades aren't current on Monday. And there's no appeal process for the student, he said.

"This isn't a new issue," he continued. "There are many cases where they (students) didn't drop the ball, but they are sitting out because of lack of teacher effort."

Cundiff said, "Currently you can't play with a D or F. If a teacher wasn't ready on Monday morning, I didn't count the grade."

Board president Toby Roderick noted that when the district goes to standards-based education, there won't be letter grades.

Webb said if a student is failing a class, he or she should be required, not just encouraged, to go to tutoring. The draft policy says "encouraged."

Board member Bobby Schurman said the eligibility issue "was talked about long before I got here (on the board), and it's one of the reasons I wanted to be here."

He also wanted a policy on this, and he objected to coaches being able to decide a kid can play despite repeated eligibility problems, as allowed in the draft policy.

Webb agreed. "The coach doesn't get to decide," he said.

High School Principal Melanie Taylor noted that eligibility applies to activities other than sports. Roderick agreed. "It's all extracurricular activities," he said. As discussed last week, the policy also includes field trips.

Roderick added the policy should stress the district focus is on academics.

Webb wanted the policy to be "student-centered, not staff-centered," with information on how students can address their grades and appeal ineligibility.

Cundiff said, "I'd love to have this in place by next year."

Board member Luke Kirk asked if the 2.0 GPA standard is high enough.

That's the Colorado High School Activities Association standard, Cundiff said.

Roderick said it should be 2.0. He directed the administration to revise the draft policy and bring it back.

Webb added, "Make it very clear what the kid needs to do."

As discussed last week, the policy says ineligible students will still be able to practice unless they are at tutoring. It says the 2014-15 staff handbook will require teachers to "keep their grade book up to date in a timely manner and give students an opportunity to improve grades based on current policies/ procedures."

Later in the meeting, the board debated how coaches decide which kids get to play, and how kids can challenge for a starting position.

"It's been a long time coming," Webb said. "What you are getting is from a school back East that was modified. I sent this to the AD... We're concerned about the equity in each sport. Parents are coming to me. We have a champion basketball team, and all the other sports are struggling. Why? I was under the impression you (Cundiff) had started sport-specific rubrics."

He wanted that on the June board agenda for fall sports, and again, he wanted an appeal process for kids who don't feel they've been treated fairly on whether they get to play.

Teacher Cindy Valdez, who has coached and whose husband is a coach, said in that situation, she would like the student to come to her first so she could understand what's really going on. "I'd involve a parent before going to the AD," she said. She would involve the athletic director if she couldn't work things out with the student and parent.

Superintendent Rocco Fuschetto said, "It's not just ability to play. It's attitude, sportsmanship."

Webb said high school sports "is where we sell our district to the outlying community. The policy would be that the student would have one appeal per year. Go to the coach first. At the high school, we can't play everybody. We're going to mastery grading in academics. Athletics should have the same criteria. We want to field the best team at the secondary level."

As part of that, he said players can't be "marginalized if you didn't grow up here." He also objected that kids who are doing things like throwing their helmets are still getting to play. "I don't want to see a kid playing if they are throwing their helmet. I'm so tired of having people say, 'That's how Ignacio acts.'"

He objected to Cundiff, "...we asked for this seven months ago. Now we are telling you."

Cundiff said, "This was asked for in October. A lot of coaches have no idea what a rubric is." He agreed parents and players should go to the coach first and follow the chain of command.

On challenges for starting positions, Valdez objected, "You are losing practice time. I do it at the start of the season and once in the middle. I'd rather be teaching them what they need to be doing rather than testing them all the time. Same as in the classroom. You waste an entire practice doing that. Once games start, you don't have time to test them."

Webb agreed challenges could be two times per sports season. "The goal is that it's equitable, fair, that the right kids are playing. It's not happening. I want it to be easy, not cumbersome."

IHS Principal Taylor, who coached girls varsity volleyball for many years, said, "I did skills tests at least three times a season. For when a parent comes in. Every Monday I had challenges. It did satisfy parents. When you live in a small town, people think it's political. Rubrics are skill tests."

Middle School Principal Chris deKay commented, "You'll develop these rubrics, and there will still be parents who won't be happy. That's just the reality. I think it's smart to have a skills test and do something mid-season. But we can spend all night talking about it and fine tuning it, but there's no way you'll make everybody happy."