Feb 05, 2014 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The Cazenovia school board had a lengthy and at times heated discussion with district Athletic Director Michael Byrnes last week about the district’s current policy on when exceptional young athletes can be moved up to a higher team level —called “selection classification” — and whether or not the district should revise or even eliminate the program.
At issue is the wording, as well as the use, of the policy as currently worded in the extracurricular handbook: whether the wording is incorrect, the definition of an “exceptional” athlete is being misapplied and/or misinterpreted to move too many players up and if the policy is even simply unfair to older students who may lose playing time to younger students moved up to higher levels.
Some school board members even charged that the BOE changed the policy last year but the changes were not implemented in the athletic program this year — whether purposefully or not — which has compounded the importance of addressing the issue even more.
The board discussed the issue at its Jan. 26 regular monthly meeting in response to a member’s request for a review of the program. Part of the information board members received was the total number of players moved by through the Selection Classification program last year, which included six eighth grade basketball players — four boys and two girls — a situation board members deemed totally against the intent of the policy. Some board members said it is implausible that six players in one year could meet the level of truly “elite” or “exceptional” athletes as the policy intends.
“That’s not elite,” said BOE member Karin Marris. “We want our rule to be fair.”
“That [number of players] is incredible,” agreed member Leigh Baldwin. “It’s clear to me ‘exceptional’ players must be exceptional.”
According to information on the district’s webpage, the Selection Classification program is the formal process by which students in grades seven and eight can become eligible to participate on junior varsity or varsity level athletics teams despite the fact they have not yet reached the ninth grade eligibility requirement. “This process is intended to be used rarely and is only intended for students who are rated as exceptional, unusually gifted or elite. Experience does not necessarily correlate to exceptionality,” the policy states.
The Cazenovia district extracurricular handbook states that “students, teachers, coaches or parents/guardians may request the athletic administrator to process a student through the Selection Classification screening procedure. Any seventh or eighth grade student, who wishes to participate on a high school sponsored interscholastic team, needs to apply to be a candidate for this process in writing at least four-weeks prior to the start date for the specific sport they are hoping to play.”
The Selection Classification program was started by New York state in the 1980s, and the current Cazenovia policy — which requires that potential program participants fill out an application, write an essay and undergo a physical and emotional maturity exams — was instituted about five years ago, Byrnes said.
Marris said the Selection Classification program as described by Byrnes to the board and as written in district policy is “totally incorrect,” and she declared herself “so angry” that the changes the board made to the program last year have not been implemented.
Byrnes said he had “never heard of this” policy change.
Byrnes defended the program as something most school districts have and that without it many players and parents would charge an unreasonable “discrimination” against superior athletes who are in seventh and eighth grades. He said that last year one female athlete left the Cazenovia district specifically because she was denied a Selection Classification advancement.
“There’s a whole other side to this that is serious,” Byrnes told the board. “If we don’t do this we’ll have a bunch of parents lined up outside the doors angry.”
Marris, who said she has been fighting to change this program for years, said Selection Classification is “inherently unfair” to older students who lose playing time to younger athletes. She said the younger athletes have an opportunity to play at the seventh and eighth grade levels if they are not moved up to junior varsity or varsity, but the upper grade athletes who get benched have no other place to play.
“Let’s worry about the 10th grader that gets cut and not about the eighth grader moving up. That’s not fair,” Baldwin agreed.
Superintendent Bob Dubik suggested that if the policy is unfair, then perhaps the district should simply abolish it.
Marris, as well as board members Jan Woodworth and Kathy Hahn, said they all have received multiple telephone calls from parents decrying the unfairness of the Selection Classification program. When BOE President Pat Vogl said he did not recall any parents or players ever complaining about the program in person at a BOE meeting, Marris said it is because people are afraid of retaliation against their children on the athletic team and in school.
After a lengthy discussion, Vogl asked Byrnes to work on revising the wording of the policy as it currently exists and bring it to the February board meeting, at which time the board will take an up or down vote to either approve a revised policy or abolish the Selection Classification program.
Also at the meeting, the board:
—Heard from Superintendent Bob Dubik that the district has used four of its five scheduled snow days for the school year, and “there’s a lot of winter left yet.” If the district uses more than the scheduled number of snow days, it must make those days up later in the year, although it is currently unclear when such make-up days would occur, he said. “We’re not sitting in a very good position right now,” Dubik said. “So those who are excited about snow days, be careful what you wish for. We only have one left.”
—Heard from Dubik that the district is not considering closing a school building in the near future, despite rumors to the contrary currently going around Cazenovia. He said declining enrollment has led the district to consider a possible future “reorganization” of the grade levels in the buildings, such as making Burton Street Elementary School kindergarten to 6 and Emory Avenue grades 7 to 12.
—Received a petition signed by 176 district parents asking the school board to stop the practice of having half-days in the school calendar, and to also hold all staff development days on Fridays instead of Thursdays. The 2014-15 school calendar is currently being created, and is usually approved by the school board in February or March.
— Discussed the possibility of enrolling in a new voluntary state program allowing local veterans to sign up for real property tax exemptions. The bill creating the program, titled “Provides authorization to grant certain exemptions from real property tax for school districts to certain veterans,” was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in December. The law allows the district to set an exemption rate under the allowed maximum. The district will need to decide whether or not to participate in the program by the end of February.
—Approved the 2014-15 district budget calendar, which is available on the district’s website at caz.cnyric.org under the “Budget” tab.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.