(Posted Sept. 18, 2014)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
What grades must a Madison-Plains High School student achieve to be eligible for extracurricular activities?
School board members debated this question Sept. 16 after Superintendent Tim Dettwiller proposed a new eligibility policy.
Prior to this school year, the benchmark was a 2.0 grade point average. However, some parents complained when they received letters this summer stating their child was ineligible. Upon looking into the matter, Dettwiller said he discovered that the 2.0-rule had not been followed uniformly in the past. The board decided to review the policy and, in the meantime, adopt a minimum standard of a 1.5 GPA.
Dettwiller’s proposal would require students to have a minimum 1.5 GPA, as well as no more than one failing grade, to participate in extracurriculars.
He also proposes a list of which extracurriculars are subject to the policy, something that wasn’t clear in the past. His list includes all sports, chess club, class officers, dances, dance team, drama club, homecoming committee, prom, prom committee, marching band, student council, National Honor Society, national and state events, non-graded field trips, flag corps and cheerleading.
He proposes exempting the following extra-curriculars because of their connection to academics: art club, civics-English, concert band, FCCLA, FFA, literary club, newspaper staff, Quick Recall, science club, Spanish club and yearbook staff.
Board member Bob Butz opposes the proposal, saying he favors a flat 2.0 GPA requirement. He said all non-graded activities, including all clubs, should be subject to the eligibility policy, regardless of their connection to academics.
“We’re a school, not a sports club,” he said, adding that the focus should be on academics not extracurriculars. He noted that the band has a support system for helping students keep up with their schoolwork and suggested that other extracurricular groups adopt similar systems.
Board member Dave Hunter also favors a flat 2.0 GPA requirement. He said he doesn’t care that other districts in the area have a lower eligibility benchmark. He wants Madison-Plains to adopt a higher standard.
“I want kids to do the work we ask of them to earn the right to” take part in extracurriculars, he said.
Board member Mike Datz favors Dettwiller’s proposal, saying he worries that with a 2.0 standard, students will take easier courses for a better chance of staying eligible.
Board member Ken Morlock said a 2.0 standard might lead to cancellation of certain sports and activities due to too few eligible players, something that happened with the boys’ soccer team last year. He said that is not fair to the students who are eligible and want to play that sport.
At the end of the debate, Dettwiller said he wanted the board to keep in mind that the eligibility policy isn’t the most important standard by which the district measures students’ academic standing.
“We have to remember that the driving force in improvement is the principals and the teachers, not this policy,” he said.
He also wants the focus to shift from what must be done once a student is deemed ineligible to what can be done to keep the student from becoming ineligible in the first place.
A vote was taken on the first reading of the proposed policy changes. Kelly Cooley, Datz and Morlock voted in favor of Dettwiller’s proposal. Butz and Hunter voted “no.” The final reading and vote on the proposal will be on board’s agenda at the next meeting, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. in the board meeting room at the elementary.