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18 Sto-Rox players ineligible next week

| Friday, Oct. 15, 2010

At least for Saturday afternoon's game at Western Beaver, the No. 3-ranked Sto-Rox football team remains intact.

It all changes next week, though.

That's when the penalties from the school district's new, stringent academic policy kick in. And according to athletic director Bill Palermo, 18 players will be ineligible for the team's Oct. 22 regular-season home finale against Shenango — also the team's senior night. Seven of the affected players are seniors.

Under the controversial policy passed in August — and condemned loudly by irate parents and students at Thursday's school board meeting — students must have at least a C grade in all core subjects to be eligible for extracurricular activities.

The penalties were originally supposed to begin Sept. 29, when the first progress reports of the school year came in. At that point, 24 football players would have been ineligible.

But superintendent Fran Serenka, whose job it is to implement the policy, granted students two weeks to improve their grades — a decision met unfavorably by the five board members in favor of the policy.

While this Wednesday marked the end of the two-week reprieve, the players with low grades are still allowed to compete Saturday.

"What you do is wait until the following week, so (the coach) practices with an eligible group of kids all week," Palermo said. "They do the same thing with the WPIAL and PIAA (rules).

"We get our grades on Wednesday or Thursday, then make sure we have them all correct on Friday. So, they're allowed to play that Friday night, but we have to (make them ineligible) the following week."

Students in extracurricular activities will now have their grades reviewed each week. If the affected football players can improve their grades by next Wednesday, they will be eligible to play again Oct. 29 in the regular-season finale.

At yesterday's school board meeting, a crowd of roughly 100 parents and students were vocal in opposing the policy, which many claim is unfair.

The first speaker in the public comments portion of the meeting was Michael Dorrenbacher, a senior at Sto-Rox who's ranked fourth academically in his class and also is a member of the school's marching band, which has seen its numbers trimmed due to the policy.

"I agree with what you are trying to do," Dorrenbacher told the board, referring to its stated goal of trying to raise academic standards. "But I don't agree with how it's been enacted."

When asked what kind of policy he would prefer, Dorrenbacher brought up a suggestion similar to one proposed by Palermo. In that policy, students would be required to have a 2.0 grade-point average in core subjects and overall.

"I completely and 100 percent agree with a 2.0 GPA," Dorrenbacher said, as the crowd roared approval.

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