School board splits on GPA needed for extra-curriculars

Should students have to have a C average?

KINGMAN - A vote to raise the grade point average for students participating in most extra-curricular activities - including sports - failed Tuesday after four of the Kingman Unified School District's Governing Board members split their votes.

Board members Bruce Ricca and Jeri Brock voted in favor of Ricca's motion to bump up the minimum grade point average from 1.5 to 2.0, or from a "D" to a "C."

Members Charles Lucero and Laurie Voss Barthlow voted against it. Carole Young was absent.

The board will reconsider whether to increase the required grade point average for students participating in extra-curricular activities at its meeting in June.

Lucero and Barthlow said they are not against higher standards, but want more information on how it will affect teachers and students. Principals from the district's two high schools and middle schools told the board that last year's increase from 1.0 to 1.5 caused problems that will continue with another upgrade.

"I don't have a concern with raising the bar, but if we make a change, we must have the appropriate procedures in place for it," said Gretchen Dorner, principal at Lee Williams High School. "What will it mean for teachers and students? What are the expectations and timeline?"

Dorner said the current computerized system of tracking grades is difficult and time-consuming for teachers, who have many students participating in several activities. Also, students missing school because of extra-curricular activities or travel are marked absent with no explanation, which lowers their grade point average.

Some teachers are "fabulous" at staying on top of inputting the most recent grades of their students, said Tonia Cobanovich, principal at White Cliffs Middle School. But the process isn't always that easy and there continue to be glitches where students bring in their papers and their grades aren't marked.

"I'd like to see how the current system can help us," said Roger Jacks, superintendent of KUSD, to the board. "I'd like to make sure a process is in place to give teachers time to implement this and students are not penalized for travel or sports. Give us time to come back in June and say, 'We have a process in place to raise the bar,' but be fair to the students."

John Venenga, athletic director at Kingman High School, told the board that last year's upgrade worked out well, only affecting five students at KHS who became ineligible to play. But if the grade point average increases to 2.0, it will hurt about 15 students and could lead to canceling the school's varsity season.

Janelle Victory, principal of Kingman High school, said she firmly believes students can achieve academically, but teachers and administrators need to get their bearings after the first increase and figure out how to implement it successfully. One year is not enough time to do that, she said.

"I'm hearing that the number of kids affected by last year's change was insignificant, but I'm saying that the extra-curricular activities may be what brings those five students to school," said Victory. "Five kids are too many kids to lose. If the grade point average had been 2.0, it would have been 15 kids."

Don Burton, principal at Kingman Middle School, agreed, noting that extra-curricular activities are some of the "carrots" that schools can dangle in front of students who don't care about getting an education. The idea is to keep them involved and attending school, said Burton.

Ricca has long been an advocate of raising the grade point average of students participating in extra-curricular activities. In October 2013, he suggested raising the eligibility standard from a 1.0, or a "D," to a 2.0, or a "C," standard.

Not everyone agreed, and a committee was formed to look into the idea and report its findings. The committee was unable to reach a consensus. But in 2014, the board decided to raise the grade point average to 1.5, which is still a "D."

Ricca said he is still fighting for a 2.0 grade point average because as a student, he knew the required minimum and maintained it. Ricca said he doesn't believe in excuses that a student isn't good in a particular subject. If students want to participate in extra-curricular activities, they'll find a way to get the help they need.

"I started this because there's talk about our students and how we're letting them down because we allow them to slide," said Ricca. "Teachers are just going to have to step up. It's their job to do the grading, and it's their classes.

"And students who have problems with subjects need to get help, not just so they can play sports, but so they can get a better job someday and support their families."