Ignacio School Board members and administrators continued their debate of sports priorities at their June 12 meeting.
At issue is the way coaches decide which kids get to play and which ones stay on the bench. Board members considered skills tests for the fall sports - football, volleyball, and cheer. The plan is to test students at the start of the season and mid-season.
Along with sport-specific skills, they include assessments based on the Character Counts program and its "Six Pillars of Character" - trustworthiness (attendance), respect (coachability), responsibility (eligibility), fairness (sportsmanship), caring (competetiveness), and citizenship (commitment/ hard work).
The mid-season assessments include game performance.
"We are saying we'll field the best team possible, regardless of whether a coach likes a kid," board member Troy Webb said. He wants a clear process for when a parent complains that their kid isn't getting playing time.
Activities Director Rocky Cundiff said the parent should go to the coach first. Players will be able to challenge for positions every two weeks, he said.
High School Principal Melanie Taylor said coaching assistants will do the challenge assessments to take the coach out of it. "We'll put the best athletes out there. We have all these things to assess, including character points," she said.
Webb commented, "My concern would be, I want to insure fidelity to the process. We want state championship teams. So even when you or the parents aren't there, the coach is playing the best kids."
Taylor responded, "We are pushing academics." It's up to Cundiff to check on the coaches, she said.
Board member Luke Kirk raised a hypothetical football situation where a quarterback has two receivers. One receiver is the better athlete, but the quarterback works better with the other receiver.
Webb responded, "Affinity doesn't equal state championships. If you lack the skills to connect, you shouldn't be on the field. The concern I'm hearing in the community is if we have all these skills, why are we diminishing in these sports? I want to take affinity out and make it data-driven, so we are putting the best kid on the field. ... Sometimes your place is on the bench."
Cundiff disagreed with Webb's priority. "My number one goal isn't a state championship. It's teaching life skills. A state championship is third or fourth."
Webb countered, "Coaches and ADs that don't have a priority of winning won't be in the position long."
Superintendent Rocco Fuschetto said some kids aren't great athletes, but they play hard and have good sportsmanship.
Webb agreed there have been some on-field sportsmanship issues, "when I saw a 280-pound lineman throw a fit on the field, or a baseball player throw his helmet against the dugout wall."
Board member Bobby Schurman weighed in, "First life skills and sportsmanship. If the coach isn't teaching those, you have those situations."
Fuschetto added, "You can have great talent and not go anywhere. I've seen it."
Taylor speculated that the addition of Character Counts will make a difference.
Webb persisted, "Athletics and winning bring in revenue. It keeps parents in the district."
Player eligibility is a separate issue based on grades or behavior in school.
The board is looking at an academic eligibility standard for all extra-curricular activities and field trips of a 2.0 grade point average with no Fs. Eligibility is determined every Monday morning based on work students have turned in as of 3:40 p.m. Friday.
After a third ineligible week, a player is off the team.
There is a process for a student to appeal an ineligibility listing with the teacher, and then with Taylor. During discussion on May 8, Webb had objected to lack of an appeal process.
Later in the evening, the board approved the fall sports rubrics (skills tests and how it's decided who gets to play) and voted preliminary approval for the eligibility policy.
Eligibility will be up for another vote at the next board meeting on June 24. The board also will adopt the preliminary budget for 2014-15. The budget year starts July 1.