2017-09-22 / Front Page

Cape sports eligibility to change

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH – Last week a new graduation policy went into place for freshman, the first class that will earn a diploma under the new proficiency-based education program, but the board of education decided the policy regarding how those requirements impacts athletics and activities needs a little more work.

On Sept. 12, per a suggestion from board member Joanna Morrissey, Policy JJJ: High School Co-Curricular and Extracurricular Activities Eligibility and Code of Conduct was tabled until the group’s next business meeting Wednesday, Oct. 11.

In the meantime, school board representatives senior Emily Healy and junior Ali Ingalls will bring up the topic to the high school’s student body.

“Bringing it back to the students would definitely clear up some worries, especially with athletes and coaches,” Ingalls said.

If adopted, the new eligibility requirements for sports and after school activities would be based on academic good standing (a 70 or above), like they have been in the past, but also habits of work, grades that are based on turning in work on time and participation. Healy said there has been a lot of miscommunication and conflicting information regarding the habits of work and how they will be measured.

“It’s early in the year, but the consistency isn’t there for every single department and it’s been confusing for students,” she said.

Board member Barbara Powers, who is chairman of the school’s policy committee said “anytime there is a change like this, it is going to feel messy at first” and sometimes difficult to get the message out to all students.

High School Principal Jeff Shedd said staff went through a series of training sessions on the switch to proficiency-based education last year and devoted a professional development day before the school year started to the topic. In early August a letter was sent to parents and students that outlined changes and parents of ninth-grade students had an orientation about the proficiency-based diploma Sept. 5. Additional sessions for parents will be held next month.

“We will continue to work. We’ve done a lot of communication, but we have more to do, especially for students,” Shedd said.

Per the policy, there will be six check points for criteria of eligibility students will have to meet to continue participating in a sport or activity, instead of the traditional four check-in points at the end of each quarter. At the midpoint between eligibility check in point, a student could get a warning that he or she is not meeting the eligibility requirements. The way the policy reads now, if a student is deemed ineligible, he or she will receive an email and be ineligible between that time and the next check-in point. Because this is a new way to track eligibility, this school year that ineligibility block will be capped at two weeks. This, Healy said, is something she doesn’t think many students are aware of.

Powers said the policy committee liked the twoweek eligibility time versus a longer period of eligibility and felt this was a good starting point.

“It not our point to keep kids out of co or extracurriculars. It’s rather to support – strongly support – habits of work that allow for their successful participation in school, their academic grades and on into co and extracurriculars,” Powers said.

Shedd said he supported tabling adoption of the policy if it meant student athletes understood the policy better.

“There definitely are some misconceptions out there. There is no question about it, so I have no problem doing some clarifying,” he said.

The existing eligibility guidelines will remain in effect, Shedd said until the board adopts a new version of the policy.

Board member John Voltz said habits of work are more important than academic grades and can be an important indicator for future employers.

“If I get a kid out of high school and they have good work habits, that’s the kid I want. If they got straight A’s, I may or may not, I don’t know,” he said.

That importance, he said, should not be minimized.

“It’s new. We are measuring it, we are still working out how we do that, but to me its importance and impact should not be up for debate,” he added.

The council did, however, adopt updated policies on Curriculum Development (policy IGA), Promotion, Retention, and Acceleration of Students (policy IKE), Graduation Requirements (policy IKF) and Student Wellness (policy JL).

The promotion, retention and acceleration of student policy, Powers said, was largely left intact, but a slight change was made to whether students are retained.

“Rather than leaving it for the sole decision of the building principal, we felt there needed to be a full consensus and include the parents to make sure grade level retention is in the best interest of the child,” she said.

Graduation requirements for sophomores, juniors and seniors don’t change with the adoption of the new graduation requirement policy. The policy update was aimed at outlining what freshmen needed to accomplish to earn a proficiency-based diploma. To that end, freshmen (the class of 2021) will have to show proficiency in English, mathematics, science and social students and “engage in learning experiences” in those subjects for each year in high school, as well as learning experiences in at least two years in world language, health/physical education and computer, industrial, performing and visual arts. Those educational experiences can come through high school classes, college courses, career or technical education, online learning, apprenticeships or internships, community service, exchange programs, independent studies, alternative education or adult education courses approved by school leaders.

“The idea behind proficiency-based education is about as simple as it gets,” Shedd told board members. “It’s the idea that a grade a student gets in class should reflect the extent to which the student met the learning goals of the class. That’s what proficiency-based education is all about. It sounds commonsensical, but it’s never really been the practice because teachers, for very good reason, blended into the aspect that represents grades the academic accomplishments of the goals of the class and things like class participation or extra credit assignments.”

A school board workshop will be held in the future, Shedd said to talk about the details of the department’s proficiency-based diploma approach.

The student wellness policy stipulates students across Cape Elizabeth’s three schools are given at minimum 20 minutes for lunch; snack time is set at least one hour before, or after lunch; nutrition information of school meals is available; school staff identify students that are at risk of food insecurity and link them with resources and food/sweets are discouraged to be used as a “reward, incentive or consequence.”

Board Vice Chairman Susana Measelle Hobbs is concerned about is how sweets are used as reward at the department’s Harvest Festival, an event filled with candy, cakes, cupcakes and other sweets for children.

“That’s another area, I feel, we need to monitor,” she said.

The policy also takes into account physical activity, encouraging teachers to provide time for physical activity or movement outside the recess period and not take away recess as a punishment or use it as time for students to make up work.

“That’s a time students need for their overall wellbeing,” said Heather Altenberg, a member of the school’s policy committee.

The policy also addresses social and emotional wellbeing, something Altenberg said the policy committee spent a lot of time talking about.

“We had a lot of conversation around the idea that wellness is not just what you eat or what you do with your body, but how you treat yourself emotionally,” Altenberg said.

Ingalls said the social and emotional wellbeing piece is an important part of the policy. She said the high school has a number of resources to help in that regard, including social workers, guidance councilors and Natural Helpers, a group of students who, Healy, a member of the group said, are chosen by their peers to serve as a resource for students who deal with suicidal thoughts, depression, eating disorders, abuse, trouble at home and other issues.

One event planned to raise awareness about suicide and mental health issues that will be coming to Cape Elizabeth soon is the Yellow Tulip Project, an initiative started by Casco Bay High School student Julia Hansen, in which tulips are planted in the fall and bloom in the spring as a reminder of, not only two of her best friends she lost to suicide, but also rebirth.

“That’s really important. We are hoping to get that sort of mentality in our school,” Ingalls said.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.

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