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B-W's Eligibility Policy Actually Stricter than PIAA's

PIAA policy only requires passing grades in any four full-credit subjects.

The 's new policy of holding students to strict academic eligibility requirements for extracurricular activities is even stricter than originally reported, the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch learned on Friday—two days after the policy was debated at length during a B-W School Board meeting.

The policy (No. 122), which goes into effect on Sunday and calls for district students in grades 7 through 12 to achieve a 70 percent or higher in English, mathematics, science or social studies (core subjects), was called "consistent" with the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA)'s guidelines on Wednesday. However, further research into those guidelines shows otherwise.

In a story that covers part of Wednesday's school board meeting, the B-W Patch , "The PIAA—that's the requirement to participate in sports. We didn't have a similar requirement to participate in any other activity, so the recommendation to the board was to make it (Policy 122) consistent.

"If the board elects to, we can review it and we can change it for activities, but we can't change it for sports because that's a state regulation."

But the PIAA's requirements for participation in sports—listed here on its website—reads only that students "must be passing at least four full-credit subjects, or the equivalent" to be eligible. In other words, instituting a core-subjects aspect is not a PIAA policy but a Baldwin-Whitehall one.

In an email exchange on Friday, Korchnak said, "The PIAA standards do not match what we want for our students. The process is the same; the standard is more rigorous. We simply applied the PIAA process and the district's standards to ALL activities."

District activities include things such as football, softball, soccer, Math League, Drama Club, et al.

The "process" that Korchnak referred to is indeed reflected in both the PIAA's and the B-W School District's policies in that ineligible students will have one week to raise their grades back to acceptable levels. If their grades are not raised sufficiently within that week, those students will continue to be ineligible for extracurricular participation.

B-W Athletics Director Vince Sortino was caught off-guard by the news that his student-athletes would be held to a new, stricter standard.

"Our student-athletes follow the PIAA standards," Sortino said by email on Friday. "The current academic policy that the board is reviewing is for (other) activities and clubs."

When presented with different information, Sortino replied, "How it was explained to me was that the new club policy was to mirror the PIAA policy. That's about all that I know.

"I am not in the loop on this one, and I have not attended any of the board meetings. I am just giving you my opinion as I understand what the policy was intended to be for clubs and activities."

A policy very similar to Baldwin-Whitehall's No. 122 was instituted in the Sto-Rox School District in 2010, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Sto-Rox's Athletics Director Bill Palermo was critical of that policy. (Full story here.)

"It's unfair, and it's ridiculous," Palermo told the Post-Gazette. "We have one volleyball player with a 3.5 grade average but has a D in a core class right now, so she's ineligible? We have a football player with two As, a B and one D in a core class—and he's ineligible. Something is wrong here."

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Janet March 10, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Korchnak lying to the board? What a surprise...
Robert Edward Healy, III March 10, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Jean, that statement about the teacher is too specific. Sorry. Had to remove it.
Christina March 12, 2012 at 01:16 PM
I don't feel a student should participate in any extra curicular acivities or sports if they cannot get a minimum of a C in ALL of their courses.
BW Parent March 12, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Some points to consider for the folks who advocate drawing the line at a “C” or any other higher standard What’s the goal? To make kids study harder? Is an intervention with a Guidance Counselor going to make this happen? We were all put on this earth with different talents and abilities. Do we punish the kids who will never be good at one or more of the core courses, especially when the course selection process encourages students to take the highest level course they can? This is a disincentive to stretch oneself. I’m disappointed in Board members who give it a, “ ….I’m sorry but maybe you need to study harder.” Short sighted or naïve to believe a kid is struggling just because they don’t study enough. Should there be a standard? You bet. The PIAA standard or any standard for extra curricular activities should take abilities into account. Who does any higher standard benefit? The kids? If you’re honest with yourself, the answer is no unless there is a comprehensive plan to get kids above that standard. That's the issue. There's no plan. Waving a magic wand won't help. If the standard does not benefit the kids, then why have it? They’re the reason for this discussion.
C Scott Hopkins March 14, 2012 at 12:19 AM
I agree with the new policy. I have been apart of the Baldwin Whitehall School District all my life and this district is one of the best in PA. Grades are more important than any other activity. Even if they did not have this policy, I would not let my son play if he were not getting good grades. A "C" is very attainable in every subject.
BW Parent March 14, 2012 at 10:57 AM
Scott - I have also lived here my whole life. I graduated from Baldwin before the Pirates won their last World Series and have never left. This policy has hit a nerve unlike anything I've seen in my time in this community. Feel blessed that the good Lord has blessed you with a child that is not academically challenged. Hopefully it never happens, until then, try to walk in another's shoes. Do you really believe the kid's that are going to be pulled out are going to study harder? Some of these kids are going in early, staying after school and attend tutoring to come up to speed and they still struggle. The District isn't going to help them. If they were they would be doing it already. If you had a kid in this situation you would realize the support in place to help these kid's is not working. They'll talk a good game, but its all smoke and mirrors. Until you're in another's shoes you truly don't know how you'd react............
Common Sense March 14, 2012 at 03:02 PM
I think that academics need to come first. The 70% is harsh, I think that the PIAA 60% is more appropriate. I think this should stretch amongst all after school activities and not just athletics. I do think that there are some flaws, they need a system as well as something put in place that allows students who have done the job in the past not to get blindsided or suffer because of one bad test or quiz. Maybe even a probation period that gives students a chance to still compete, but also know that within a set amount of time that if there is no improvement, they will be deemed ineligible. Just some thoughts.
BWHS Band Student Parent March 14, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Interestingly enough, my daughter was called down to meet with the band director and her guidance counselor because she has a <70% in GYM! When she informed the counselor that the policy is specific to "core" classes, the counselor told her that she didn't believe that to be true. I am so proud that my daughter had enough sense to leave the meeting and will continue to seek counseling from a different counselor. How does the School Board and the schools expect the students to achieve and abide by these new guidelines when there are some in the system who don't even know what the new guidelines are in order to assist and advise the students to achieve these goals!
Robert Edward Healy, III March 14, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Wow. Has anyone else had this same thing happen?
As the BHS Guidance Supervisor, I warmly welcome this anonymous Band parent to contact me directly if he/she is dissatisfied with the services the Guidance Department is providing. This certainly applies to all parents and students of BHS. I can be reached by phone (412.885.7500 X8071) or email (smchugh@bwschools.net), and I'm happy to meet in person, too. I am eager to have satisfied customers! Additionally, let me provide some accurate information critical to this discussion: Though the policy is specific to "core" classes for the 70%, PE and other "non-core" classes still play an important role as students must maintain an overall 2.0 GPA (all classes factor into that number, including PE), so they should not be disregarded as unimportant. The policy has not yet taken effect; we are in a "trial period" to ensure successful implementation. Lots of meetings are happening so the students are correctly informed. From the beginning, all of the counselors have been well aware of the correct details of the policy. To-date, none of the counselors have met with the Band Director and a Band student to discuss this policy. We should be very careful -on all issues- but, especially on such a "hot button" issue to share accurate information with everyone. The direct approach is always best and my offer stands for all: don't hesitate to contact me anytime!
Robert Edward Healy, III March 14, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Thank you, Stephanie.
Jean Smith March 15, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Every other school district has to go with the 70% on grades but some parents in Baldwin do not think this should apply to this school. Go over to Mt Lebo, Upper St Clair, Bethel Park, South Fayette and for sports and other activities if you don't have a 70% or higher then you can't be in sports, band, drama club, etc. Can't wait till the end of the year when my daughter will see the end of Baldwin and will be in a better school district.
Robert Edward Healy, III March 15, 2012 at 05:02 AM
UPDATE: B-W School Officials Won't Enforce New Eligibility Policy (Yet): http://patch.com/A-r9qr

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