School board: 8th graders on varsity teams
The conversation about eighth graders participating in high school sports continued at the Wahkiakum School District Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday evening before board members heard reports from the principals and the superintendent.
The Washington Interscholstic Activities Association (WIAA) decided this past year to allow schools whose enrollment was less than half the enrollment of the largest school in their classification to add eighth graders to high school athletics. Wahkiakum fits the bill. After a parent voiced concerns last month, the board decided to give more members of the community and coaches a chance to speak about it as well and tabled the matter till the February meeting.
Shawn Merz, who is a member of the school board and whose daughter is an eighth grader playing on the varsity basketball team, spoke in support of eighth graders playing high school sports before opening up the meeting for public comment.
Zach Brown, a junior who has been a varsity athlete since he started high school, also spoke in support of eighth graders.
“Since we haven’t had that many kids,” Brown said, “people thought they were entitled to starting spots and weren’t showing up for practices. In football this year, at least three or four people missed one or two practices every week and still got to play. That doesn’t create any competition; they think they’ve got that spot no matter what. If we have eighth graders, we have enough for JV and enough people to work for the spots.”
Treasure Collupy, the parent of an eighth grader, agreed.
“More players create more competition,” Collupy said. “It creates better success in the long run for the Wahkiakum Mules.”
Todd Souvenir, who coaches the boys basketball team, acknowledged that any parent of an eighth grader would want them to get playing time and that any parent of a junior wouldn’t want their child to lose playing time, but asked all to consider that the program was more important than any individual.
“Every school in our district would love to have eighth graders participate,” Souvenir said.
Tom Shofner spoke up for one high school student who felt she had lost an opportunity to play because of eighth graders.
“My student wants to be a Mule,” he said.
The student, who had previously excelled in a sport that was not offered at WHS, decided to take up basketball for the first time last year. According to Shofner, she attended a clinic at LCC over the summer and went to Roots Sports Academy, where she was told she had the basic skills, she just needed playing time.
“She turned out,” Shofner said. “She didn’t even think about starting, just wanted to learn to play the game. She made every practice. She got to play some on the C Squad, but not much. Every once in awhile on the JV team.”
Shofner said the student was told she wasn’t getting playing time because she didn’t know the plays, so over the winter break, she studied diagrams and learned them. After the break, she didn’t get any playing time at all.
Merz tried to cut him off.
“I’m not sure how that’s an eighth grade problem,” he said.
Shofner responded. “She was told she wasn’t getting any playing time because of the eighth graders.”
Girls basketball Coach Robbie Garrett interjected, saying he wished he could have talked to Schoff before the student quit the team. He pointed out that adding the eighth graders allowed the team to have a full JV squad this year, which meant that the squad got to play full games instead of two quarters.
“It does a disservice to our girls and to the league not to play a full game,” Garrett said.
“JV and C Squad are where you learn,” Shofner said. “That’s where my student would have had an opportunity to learn to play the game. She didn’t have that opportunity.”
Board member Paula Culbertson spoke up.
“I think things should be done fair and equitably,” she said. “This is the policy that the board said we would try for a year. Any disputes between team members should go to the coach first. Our job is not to micromanage who plays. Our job is to set policy. We just wanted to hear what people had to say.”
She also answered a question that several people at the meeting seemed to be concerned about.
“Nobody said anything about nixing baseball.”
In other business, the last day of school was moved back a couple days to make up for snow days. Graduation will still be on June 9, but the last day for students will be June 14, according to Superintendent Bob Garrett.
Paul Ireland made the case for the purchase of a new anti-virus software.
“The anti-virus we are currently running took two and a half hours,” Ireland said, “so what we are paying $3,000 a year for is not performing as well as the free junk I’m getting. I questioned the vendor and got a recommendation for a completely different product.”
The board approved the purchase of a new anti-virus system, which will cost the district $18,000 for initial set up and three years of coverage.
Principal Theresa Libby shared that students were learning financial literacy. She and Principal Stephanie Leitz talked about clubs and electives and other opportunities that students were taking advantage of around the school.
According to Libby, if a student’s grade dropped below 70 percent in any of their classes they had to go to study hall instead of to a club they enjoyed on Friday. Grades were coming up and the number of F grades were going down.
Eighth grade girls will be heading to LCC one day in March to learn about power tools. Some high school students will head to Portland this week to learn about opportunities in engineering and meet with some professionals.
“We allow students to self-select field trips and opportunities,” Leitz said.
Superintendent Garrett reported that enrollment had gone up by three students in the last month. A recent three year audit was completed and Garrett expressed relief that it was over and that there had been no findings. He shared that he had been approached by someone who wanted to use an area behind the school to conduct a 4-H archery program.
Finally, he reported that the school district made $145,000 in the recent timber sale.