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Gateway School District amends eligibility policy

| Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Gateway School District officials have amended a grade-point average policy that prohibits some high school students from taking part in competitive after-school activities.

The school board voted 9-0 last week to require students to earn at least a “C” average over the previous two semesters, in order to participate in activities. A version of the policy approved last year initially used a student's cumulative GPA, which accounts for the entire high school career. Officials chose to revise it after hearing complaints last month from some parents.

The revised policy will take effect in the 2014-15 school year. Until then, officials are determining student eligibility on either last year's GPA or the student's cumulative GPA, whichever favors the student more, said Gateway spokeswoman Cara Zanella.

As of last week, the revised policy resulted in 13 students losing eligibility for fall activities. Three students who would have been ineligible under the new policy were spared because of the transitional either/or option, Zanella said.

“This is part of the board's overall plan to strengthen academic standards in the district,” school board President Steve O'Donnell said.

The original GPA policy, which the school board adopted in October, was based in part on a concern that student athletes who were academically ineligible at other districts might transfer to Gateway to get a clean slate and start playing sports immediately.

Some people accused former Gateway Athletic Director Terry Smith of recruiting players from other school districts, which violates Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League and district rules.

The WPIAL investigated a few Gateway players in 2012, but all were cleared to play. However, one player's transfer was denied by the WPIAL, and the decision was overturned by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Smith supporters accused some school board members of forcing Smith out of Gateway last year by reducing the athletic director position to half-time and prohibiting an athletic director from coaching. School directors who voted for the changes said the decision was not personal, but was an attempt to improve academics by reducing the athletic budget.

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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