Pickerington athletes want a choice


Pickerington parent Phillip Clopton addressed the Pickerington Board of Education on March 10 regarding the district’s open enrollment policy, which he said denied "innocents" the opportunity to enjoy the "American dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

By law, students living within the Pickerington district may choose to attend any school in the system as long as their guardians provide transportation, however student athletes who opt to switch schools lose a year of eligibility.

In December, the board updated the penalty clause of the open enrollment policy to reflect the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s (OHSAA) position. As per the new rule, junior high students also lose a year of eligibility if they decide to switch schools.

Clopton’s two sons attend eighth grade at Lakeview Junior High, but they want to transfer to Pickerington Central next year rather than follow their two older sisters to Pickerington North. They intend to play football and do not want to forgo a year of eligibility.

The new rule states that student athletes must choose a school by sixth grade to avoid the penalty. Clopton argued that his sons were "victims of injustice" because the policy change occurred after they had passed sixth grade.

Board member Lee Gray, who entered office after the policy changed, asked his fellow board members "was it overlooked in the policy to have a grandfather clause in it? From my point it makes sense to have a grandfather clause."

Board member Gail Oakes agreed, "I don’t have issues with a grandfather clause. What’s wrong with the program at North that everyone wants to come to Central?"

Although a grandfather clause would help his sons, Clopton has issues with the entire rule, which he said has the "all too familiar" ring of segregation. He asked the board why the penalty only effects athletes not students involved in other activities such as band or theater.

"Freedom of choice is what this country was founded on," Clopton said, "If you control a person you can do what you want to them. As a taxpaying resident of the city of Pickerington, I have the right to send my children to any school in the district.  Discrimination (is when) a segment of people are treated differently."

Pickerington North football mom Hope Boren had previously addressed the board with the same concern, "Why are you only targeting athletes?"

Boren said her sons’ high school experiences had suffered because they had to play football at North rather than Central.

In response to Boren’s concerns, board member Lori Sanders defended the policy change at the board’s Jan. 14 meeting.

"I am only guessing (why OHSAA changed its policy) but believe that issues were growing with regards to athletes bouncing from school to school when they didn’t like the situation they were currently in at their school," Sanders said. "Our current policy does not take away the freedom to choose. That choice just has to be made before an athlete participates in interscholastic sports in seventh grade. It is unfortunate that so much time and energy is spent on this issue. We have many other areas that need to be focused on in this district."

Oakes to leave board

Pickerington Board of Education member Gail Oakes announced on March 10 that her home would sell soon and she would be moving out of the district. She said the board will need to find someone fill her seat.

"I would hope if anyone in the community is interested (in serving as a member), they should contact the board," Oakes said.

Superintendent Dr. Karen Mantia said the district would post an application form on its Web site at www.pickerington.k12.oh.us.

Tennis courts

Parent Craig Vandervoort addressed the board regarding what he called inadequate tennis facilities at Ridgeview Junior High and Central. Currently both junior highs share courts with the high schools, however North and Lakeview share 12 courts while Ridgeview and Central share six – "a significant fact of inequality."

Because of the limited court space, the Ridgeview tennis players must wait until after the high school players have finished.   Many of the junior high matches are cut short due to darkness.

Vandervoort said that he has three daughters in grades seventh, fifth and third and he hopes the district will erect six more courts before the beginning of next tennis season. He said board members told him that new courts are on the priority list.

Henson named Tussing principal

Effective April 1, Tom Wilkinson will retire as principal of Tussing Elementary and Jeanette Henson will take his place. Henson has served as Tussing’s dean of students since 2003.

The district offered Henson a 225-day contract at a salary of $79,900 plus an educational stipend of $1,000.

Superintendent Dr. Karen Mantia said the district would miss Wilkinson who "contributed to Tussing and the district."

"(The teachers at Tussing) are thrilled she is taking the helm," Tussing art teacher Mary Sheridan said of Henson.  

Henson earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in educational administration from Bowling Green State University. She previously served as principal at Osborne Elementary in Sandusky, Ohio and taught for 12 years before that. Three years of her teaching experience were as a Title 1 instructor helping at-risk first and second graders.

Mantia said that promoting Henson is an example of "tapping into the pool of incredible talent" within the district.  

With schools across the state losing administrators to retirement and fewer qualified individuals applying for the vacancies, Pickerington must focus on identifying leaders from within its ranks.


Mantia said the board would soon need to name administrators for the newly named Sycamore Creek Elementary, Tollgate Elementary and Tollgate Middle schools. All three will open in August 2009, but the principals should be assigned during construction.

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