TN studies GPA rules

Published 5:50 am Saturday, January 10, 2009

FRANKLIN— Since the Franklin School Board asked members of a committee formed to evaluate whether or not the school system should raise its minimum grade point average (GPA) requirement for extracurricular activities from 1.25 to 2.0, the issue has become a hot topic throughout the community.

The Tidewater News has evaluated the numbers to see how FHS student athletes stack up against other area schools academically. Information was gathered from the Franklin Schools Central Office and Virginia High School League, as well as other schools in the region.

The current Virginia High School League (VHSL) rules require students to pass at least three out of four classes with a minimum 0.75 cumulative GPA.

Our research found that out of the schools located in our immediate readership area, FHS was the only one who had requirements above that minimum. Both Southampton High School and Windsor High School rated their athletes by the VHSL minimum.

Out of 134 Franklin High School students who were eligible for fall sports, 30 had cumulative GPAs below 2.0. The overall cumulative GPA of all 134 students was 3.0.

During the first nine-week reporting period, student athletes earned a combined 3.08 GPA.

Currently, all student athletes are required to attend mandatory study hall or tutorials in any subject where they may be falling below a “C” average.

During the months of November and December, student athletes required to attend mandatory tutorials took advantage of those opportunities 46 out of 77 times. Out of the 31 opportunities missed, a reason for the absence was provided.

Regardless of what other school systems are requiring, School Board member David Benton said the GPA in Franklin should be raised.

“I have been for raising the GPA for a long time because I believe we should have higher expectations for all our students in Franklin,” he said.

The school board’s student liaison Caleb Wilson, a senior at FHS, said he thinks it should be higher also.

“There’s a reason the word ‘student’ comes first in the phrase ‘student athlete,’ ” he said.

FHS football player Tyler Childress said if the GPA requirement is raised, he hopes kids have time to adjust.

“I think if they are going to do it, they should do it, a little at a time so people can get used to it first,” he said.

During the December school board meeting, the committee presented a proposal that would raise the GPA incrementally from 1.25 to 1.5 in the 2009-10 school year, and then to 1.75 the following year.

However, school board officials thought the committee should give its recommendation more thought and asked them to go back and try again.

Leading the committee is Assistant Superintendent Rick Clemons. Clemons said the committee took the board’s sentiments to heart and is working hard to come up with a solution that works.

“We are going back as a committee and will possibly bring a recommendation to the board in February,” Clemons said.

FHS Athletic Director Mona Sumblin is a member of the committee who believes raising the GPA to 2.0 would have an adverse effect on several of her students.

“We are being projected by some as being only interested in winning championships and not concerned with how the children perform in school,” she said. “That is so far from the truth. We know our kids have to have both to be successful.”

Sumblin said she has a philosophy called the “Three A’s” that she has preached her entire 28 years in the school system.

“I always tell my kids their priorities should be attitude, academics and then athletics — in that order,” said Sumblin.

Sumblin said many kids involved in sports and other extracurricular activities are motivated to do better in school because they have a sense of purpose.

“I’m not saying our kids (student athletes) can’t achieve a 2.0,” she said. “I’m concerned about the child that won’t be able to benefit from the structure athletics or other activities can provide.”

Sumblin said that students not involved in extracurricular activities may get involved in detrimental activities outside of school.

Teacher Travis Felts, a former FHS athletic director and current committee member, agreed.

“What’s with the magic 2.0 number? We have too many kids who could be cut out of a valuable activity if they aren’t allowed to participate,” he said.

Felts said the lessons kids receive from sports and other activities are valuable for life.

“With sports, the kids get positive role models in their coaches and they learn discipline,” he said.

Felts said people not in favor of raising the GPA aren’t against holding students to higher standards.

“School ends at 2:40 p.m. Kids not involved in extracurricular activities start hitting the streets. Often parents aren’t home to supervise their activities and some start falling into the traps of gangs and other things. We know that we have the attention of those children who participate in extracurricular activities from the time they get to school in the morning, till sometimes after 6 p.m.”

Felts said athletics is just one way educators believe they can help children perform better in classes.

“Franklin has had a successful sports program and if we can use athletics to help our kids achieve academically, we are going to use it,” he said.