Jul 30, 2014
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Should Falls Athletes Be Held to a Higher Academic Standard?

Lori Blodorn, who heads the district's Policy Committee, posed the question to fellow board members Monday to solicit feedback on potentially revising the district's policy for student athletes at the high school. What do you think?

Should Falls Athletes Be Held to a Higher Academic Standard?

As part of the Menomonee Falls School Board’s dedication to promoting excellence in the classroom, the board may consider adopting a higher academic standard for its athletes than other schools in the Greater Metro Conference.

An official policy proposal hasn’t even been drafted at this point, but Lori Blodorn, who heads the district’s policy committee, turned to her fellow members Monday for insight on possibly upping the academic standards for athletes at .

Blodorn posed the idea purely for debate, and board members had varying positions on changing the academic requirements for student athletes. She said the Handbook Committee met prior and suggested keeping the policy the same. The Policy Committee is still in discussion, and hasn't brought a recommendation to the board.

Currently, athletes in the Greater Metro Conference are subject the WIAA minimum requirement for academic performance. Student athletes retain eligibility if they haven’t received more than one failing grade in the most recent marking period. If they are declared ineligible - carrying two failing grades -  they have three weeks to bring their averages back up while they are suspended from competition.

School districts can mandate a more stringent policy that would trump the WIAA regulation.

Board members suggested a few ways to up the standard for Menomonee Falls athletes. Suggestions ranged from deeming an athlete ineligible with just a single failing grade, or mandating a minimum GPA requirement for all athletes.

“Our job as a board is to create policy, and I think we should push students to excel,” said board member Paul Tadda. “If we do pick a GPA minimum we’re at least pushing the students to achieve what they can. I think that will mean more to them later in life than a pennant on the gym wall.”

It was noted by board members that the academic performance of athletes hasn’t been a serious issue regardless of the sport.

Faith Vanderhorst added that just because a student is carrying a single failing grade, they could also have several “Ds” or “Cs” mixed in on their report cards. She thought a minimum GPA requirement would take lower marks into account and build a more accurate picture of overall academic performance.

“If they have no failing grades but they have four ‘Ds’ they shouldn’t be out practicing, but studying,” Vanderhorst said.

Currently, some individual coaches enforce their own academic standards for their athletes by mandating a minimum GPA, but board member David Noshay said those standards are far from uniform and depend on the sport and the coach. A suggestion was floated to create a policy requiring coaches set a minmum GPA level in every sport.

“They’re all different. Every program should be the same. I have an issue leaving it up to the coaches to decide,” Noshay said.

However, both Board President Ron Bertieri and board member Scott Ternes voiced hesitancy to change the rules from the standard used by other schools in the conference.

“I think putting a policy above the rest of the region can be troublesome,” Ternes said.

Bertieri suggested any discussions for policy changes regarding student athletes should begin at the conference level with all schools involved.

The Policy Committee will meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday to discuss the feedback from the board and decide on a direction for a draft. Any policy change would go to the board for a first read and discussion prior to any approvals.

The board will need to approve any proposed revisions to the policy by the end of May or early June to assure it is printed in the student handbooks that are distributed in fall.

Although a policy draft hasn’t been presented to the board, we’d like to turn this debate over to Patch readers. Do you think the district should revise its academic performance guidelines for athletes? Should they stay the same, or do feel that MFHS should raise its standards? Be sure to tell us in the comments below and vote in our poll.

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