Rocky Fork Enterprise

School board debates value of having work sessions

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Community dialogue regarding topics like eligibility requirements for Gahanna-Jefferson athletics could be scheduled in the near future.

While previewing the agenda for the July 10 school board meeting, board member Lew Griffin on July 2 said he has a long list of discussion items and athletics eligibility is one of them.

In addition to the Ohio High School Athletic Association scholastic requirements, the Gahanna-Jefferson school district has set a minimum grade-point average for eligibility to participate in athletics for grades 7-12.

Student athletes must have a GPA of at least 1.5 for the preceding nine weeks. If a student athlete does not have a 1.5 GPA, he/she is ineligible for the entire nine weeks.

If the GPA is between 1.5 and 1.99, the student athlete is required to attend a minimum of three study-table sessions per week.

Superintendent Francis Scruci said the district wants to promote academic excellence but said some students wouldn't attend school without athletics.

"It's a great debate and argument," he said. "If we have a work session on a particular topic, that would be one. There are valid points on both sides."

Griffin said the new format of reviewing agenda items a week prior to a regular board meeting on the first Thursday of the month is time-consuming.

"We're not having discussions with the community on real topics," he said.

Board president Jill Schuler said the board is conducting its business.

"Is there value in work sessions?" she asked. "I've learned more in the last six months. I think of relationship building. It has been helpful to me. I've found great value in it, trust and collaboration. I understand you don't see the value at this juncture."

Griffin said there's a cost of time going over an agenda, and it could be done at one time.

Board member Matt Campbell said he likes the informal work sessions, and he learns a great deal from the questions asked by veteran board member Windy McKenna.

"I think it's very beneficial to have this," he said. "The formality of a public meeting is also important. I get a lot of good comments from the public that they're more informed than ever."

Previously, Schuler said, individual board members would consult with the superintendent or appropriate personnel regarding questions about agenda items.

"We have serious problems and discussions to be made, and we're not doing that," Griffin said. "When do we take time to have these discussions? Do we have a third night?"

Schuler said that's a possibility.

"Doing the work of the board is timely," she said. "We have to take the steps. We have three new board members with a lot to cover."

Regular school board meeting attendee Jeannie Hoffman said she appreciates the workshop meetings, and she finds them beneficial.

"I don't have a problem going over agendas," Griffin said. "Do some homework ahead of time. It's costing us some accomplishments we could attain in the way we're doing business. We aren't addressing enough issues. We're not accomplishing as much as I would like us to see accomplish."

Hoffman asked if a lot of athletes are ineligible because of academics.

"It's not a large number," Scruci said. "If they have a minimum 1.5 and taking five credits, they're eligible to play. It's enforced strictly."

Campbell recommended the board set a date on the topic for open discussion.

McKenna said study-table sessions give students an opportunity to help themselves.

"We're not going to go 1.5 to 2," McKenna said. "It would be transitional if something were to happen."

The discussion about academic eligibility for athletes was prompted by a clarification regarding athletic code of conduct for the 2014-15 year. It's an agenda item for the July 10 regular meeting.

"If a kid at the end of the fourth quarter has four classes, they can't go to summer school and make it up," Scruci said. "The key to be eligible is five credits you have to pass."

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