Thursday, August 24, 2000

Schools boost teams, clubs

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati schools may lower the minimum grades needed to play sports or join clubs under a plan that would also increase funding and staff supervision for after-school activities.

        The three-point plan, designed to involve more students in extracurriculars, was presented Wednesday by Superintendent Steven Adamowski and Athletic Director Dave Dierker to the school board.

        Mr. Dierker said students who participate are more likely to stay in school and show academic improvement.

        “It seems we have an at-risk population that can benefit from the supervision and activities that go along with these,” Mr. Dierker said.

        Board members will review the suggestions, some of which are already in committee.

        The plan would:

        • Align district eligibility requirements with state minimums.

        Now, Cincinnati students must pass all classes and maintain a minimum 2.0 grade point average, or a C average. The state requires students to pass five courses that count toward graduation and keep a minimum 1.0 GPA, or a D average.

        • Create the position of student activities coordinator at the high school level.

        This full-time, nonteaching, nonunion position would coordinate athletic and extracurricular schedules, explore fund-raising options and assist student group advisers — such as those supervising the yearbook or language clubs — in achieving goals.

        • Set aside the equivalent of 1 percent of the district's budget, or $3.7 million, for extracurricular programs.

        This would be accomplished by a public-private partnership that would provide $500,000 from the community and $3.2 million from the general budget.

        Mr. Adamowski said he will work with the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers in

        creating the activities coordinator positions. Those positions are now under union contract because they are filled by full-time teachers.

        “We want to determine how we can use athletic and extracurricular programs as a tool to help students succeed and graduate,” Mr. Adamowski said.

        Rick Beck, Cincinnati Federation of Teachers president, said the union supports providing more meaningful extracurricular programs.

        Hiring someone to coordinate schedules and buses is a good idea, he said, as long as certified teachers remain as athletic directors.

        “The AD was to be a teacher because athletics are actually related to the education of the student,” Mr. Beck said.

        The eligibility piece is a continuation of a debate that started last year.

        Some junior high students don't receive letter grades, so the district in August dropped the 2.0 minimum but retained the requirement that students pass all classes, in effect, accepting a 1.0 or “D” average.

        That move was axed when critics said the district was lowering standards.

        A group of school and community members is working to find the best way to adjust eligibility requirements, board member Sally Warner said. “Our standards are out of line and maybe they need to be brought into line,” she said.

        Many Tristate school districts stick to the state minimum and some require weekly checks of student GPAs.

        Mr. Dierker also pointed out the irony in this fact: Under current policy, academic rules to play sports (2.0 GPA) are higher than graduation requirements (1.0 GPA).

        Yet even if the 1.0 GPA were in effect, Mr. Dierker said, only a small number of students would be affected. For example, fewer than 50 percent of students at Withrow High School would be eligible to participate.


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