Nov 10, 2011 Herm Card Uncategorized
It was not a particularly good week for education. As happens all too often, adult behavior has intruded on the education of young people.
It is not news that over a considerable (season-long, at least) period, the Skaneateles school district investigated accusations of improper recruiting practices undertaken by members of its coaching staff. The district made what seemed a sincere effort to police itself, and the investigation resulted in the submission of a report to Section III, the governing body of local high school athletics. That report verified improper practices by members of the coaching staff. Section III officials then imposed what was considered an appropriate penalty on the school’s football team, which was suspending them from the Section III playoffs.
The whole thing seems fairly simple. Student-athletes from a number of school districts were put in the position of being adversely affected by the actions of adults. Someone is guilty of causing it, admits it, and is penalized. Certainly a good lesson for young people to learn.
But — not so fast. The school district decided that even though it admitted to violations, it was dismayed by the penalty and sought recourse in the courts, claiming that by doing so, it was acting in the best interest of the players.
“We will be heard,” the district’s superintendent, said Skaneateles Superintendent Philip D’Angelo in The Wall Street Journal. “Part of our whole plea is that if we miss a game, it’s irreparable damage, and you can’t go back once you’ve missed a game. We need to be heard. We think the penalty was excessive. Did we identify infractions? Certainly. We thought probation was the appropriate punishment.”
The district was granted a “stay of execution” to play another game, which it won. Then, their appeal was denied, and they were once again removed from the playoffs. Their coach resigned, claiming that too was in the best interests of the players. Citing, once again, the best interests of the student-athletes, the district appealed once more — an appeal that was, on Thursday, also denied. Thus ended the season — a season that featured exceptional performance and achievement by the players and a shameful performance by the people in charge of them on all levels.
So — what is the lesson here?
Education is the responsibility of adults. Whether they accept it or not, the Skaneateles school board, the superintendent, the athletic director (who has not seemed to speak out on either side of the issue other than to say she “cannot talk about students”), and the coaches — are all educators.
If people were truly acting in the best interests of the players, as many claim, there would have been no hint of impropriety in the first place – impropriety that has been well enough established that the district admitted it. Likewise, once a penalty was meted out, those who admitted the impropriety should accept their responsibility.
“You can delegate authority but not responsibility” is a primary tenet of good leadership. It might be good for the educational leaders in Skaneateles to simply admit that it is more than just a coach and his staff that is to blame here. It is everyone who put students in the position of being penalized, and who made it worse by trying to use the courts to avoid their punishment.
Maybe it’s also time for these administrators and leaders to take that responsibility to apologize to the student-athletes and others who have been victimized by some of their own educators.