A number of extracurricular-related issues dominated the Ketchikan School Board meeting Wednesday.
So, Board policy isn’t any different today than it was yesterday. But a debate about how the district should handle students with failing grades, but who still want to participate in extracurricular activities resulted in a closer vote than the Board has seen this year.
“There are situations where a kid might need some flexibility because of some things going on in their personal life,” Board Member Stephen Bradford says.
Bradford is speaking about whether or not students who have received an F on their report card should be allowed to participate. He believes that having an across-the-board policy restricting participation would be unfair, especially for those students for whom activities are a positive influence.
Board Member Misty Archibald agrees. Board Member Colleen Scanlon does, too; she presented a number of extreme scenarios wherein a student may fail a class, say, if their house burned down.
Board Member Michelle O’Brien is on the other side of the debate. She says that while she understands and sympathizes with extenuating circumstances, there needs to be a straight rule.
“Our society has moved so rapidly in the direction where it’s a win-win, make everyone feel good no matter how bad they’re doing, I’m not in favor,” O’Brien says. “If they want to play, they need to earn it.”
The option O’Brien supports says that students with any failing grades would be excluded. She also cites the potential for favoritism if there isn’t a hard and fast rule.
Superintendent Boyle agrees, as does new student Board Member Evan Wick. Bradford proposed an amendment to the option supported by O’Brien. That amendment would allow the superintendent to place a one-semester probation on students who do not achieve a 2.0 grade point average. That amendment would offer some reprieve for students in special circumstances.
That amendment passed, 4-4, because Student Board Member Wick’s vote is advisory. The full measure, with the amendment, ultimately failed, 6-2. Archibald and Scanlon voted for the amended legislation.
Kayhi wrestling coach Rick Collins also spoke to the Board during the citizen comment portion of the meeting.
“I don’t want anything to do with Anchorage,” Collins says, “I’d rather go south. They treat us like rock stars down there.”
Collins is talking about problems he encounters coaching a large Southeast high school team. Because the wrestling team is much larger than other schools in the region, it qualifies to compete with bigger schools like Anchorage instead of other ones in Southeast. He says Kayhi doesn’t feel as welcome up north, and even feels better south, in Seattle.
O’Brien and Scanlon said that, while in Anchorage later this year, they will take the issue up with the Alaska School Activities Association.
Superintendent Boyle told the Board that if a face-to-face meeting with Commissioner Mike Hanley of the state Department of Education and Early Development fails to produce results on pending funding for special needs students, he will consult the Board on taking legal action.
Funds from last year for special needs still have not been awarded, which places a strain on finances.
Boyle also says he is making progress on a dispute with the state on reorganizing the Revilla school into a K-12 program. He had hinted at taking the state to court on that issue, as well, though that appears unlikely.
Though the Board meeting was the first for Evan Wick, it was the last for Board President Ginny Clay, who isn’t running for another term. Her thanks to Board Members was emotional.
“I would encourage you to keep the unity that we have,” Clay says. “I’m gonna miss you guys.”
Following the Oct. 1st election, the board will choose new officers.