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Minimum GPA policy reinstated

| Friday, Oct. 26, 2001

Gateway school directors Wednesday voted narrowly to reinstate a policy requiring a 2.0 minimum grade-point average for students taking part in all extracurricular activities.

The measure, passed 5 to 4, reverses a decision made last month to suspend the policy for a year to allow administrators to evaluate whether it is effective and fairly implemented.

School director Rich Lopiccolo, who proposed going back to the 2.0 grade requirement at the school board's work session last week, said Wednesday's decision is a victory for academics.

"We restored academic excellence to the district," Lopiccolo said. "We are now in full accordance with the goals of our strategic plan, and we've put the futures of our children as our top priority."

Lopiccolo, and directors Tim Varner, Carl Aker Jr., Jim Brown and David Magill voted to repeal the suspension of the 2.0 grade point requirement. Directors Bill Segar, Bob Gale, Robert Kalkstein and Gregg Nemec voted against the measure.

Nemec, who proposed the policy suspension at September's meeting, said he was disappointed in the board's decision to repeal it because he believes it was made for the wrong reasons.

"I guess I am more disappointed by board members being affected by mob rule," Nemec said. "They missed the whole idea (of the suspension)."

The suspension temporarily reduced the minimum grade point average requirements to match the guidelines used by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, which requires that a student pass four courses - even with all "D" grades - and have no more than one "F" grade.

Nemec proposed the suspension, he said, because the original eligibility policy, introduced in the mid-1990s, failed to address the issue of providing tutoring for students who were falling below the 2.0 standard, as had been discussed by the board.

Opponents to the suspension claimed it "dumbed down" district standards and gave parents and students the impression that athletics were more important than academics.

Nemec said the suspension in no way endorsed a weakening of standards.

The point, he said, was to allow the administration to review the policy and make corrections and changes that would better address the needs of the marginal students in the system.

Repealing the suspension, Nemec said, still fails to address what should be done to assist students who want to compete but who are struggling with their grades.

Lopiccolo said, however, the responsibility of determining what should be done to assist struggling students now lies with the district administration, where he says it should have been in the first place.

"I've done my part," Lopiccolo said. "It's now time for the administration to (move in) the direction to do what they say they've wanted to do."

Despite his support of the increased academic standard, Lopiccolo admits the implementation of the 2.0 requirement policy has been partially flawed up to this point.

Cheryl Boise, a Monroeville resident and one of several at Wednesday's meeting who wore "I support the 2.0 GPA" stickers on their shirts, agreed that there have been flaws, but said the solution is to work with the policy to make it more effective, not remove it, even temporarily.

"I am worried that lowering the GPA (requirement) is the first step in covering up the insufficiencies in the district's plan," she said.

Bruce Feldman, another Monroeville resident, agreed, saying that the district needs to look into a positive proactive solution to the problem of low GPAs, rather than negating an existing policy.

Segar, president of the school board, said while nearly a quarter of the more than 1,400 students at the high school have less than a "C" average - the equivalent of a 2.0 GPA - that is a problem that needs to be addressed district-wide, not just for student athletes.

"Corrective action is needed ASAP, and it will require a lot more action than developing academically sound athletic eligibility requirements," he said.

Nemec said he will continue to encourage the administration to provide assistance to struggling students to make sure none who want to compete get left behind.

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