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Athletic policy draws numerous complaints

Public questions sixth grade exclusion from baseball and softball teams

December 15, 2010
ALTON— The Alton School Board met on Monday, Dec. 13, and members held two public hearings before they started the meeting.

Superintendent Kathy Holt presented the board with an updated proposal on bullying and reporting bullying. The updates are part of the new Pupil Safety and Violence Protection Policy on bullying. There was no public input on the policy and the board later accepted a second reading of the policy.

Holt also presented the board with unanticipated funds that will be made available through the Education Jobs Funding Federal Grant. There was also no public input on this topic. The board later accepted the grant for a total of $80,193.25, with $7,341 coming from unanticipated funds.

The grant will help support the math program by reinstituting a half-time math teacher, provide time for a math coach and help support a math program that will be run during the summer months.

Members of the board and the public discussed the topic of allowing sixth grade students on the seventh and eighth grade baseball and softball teams quite heavily.

Baseball and softball are the only sports that don't have a "B Team" and are also the only sports where sixth grade students aren't allowed to try out. This spring would be the first season that this new stipulation would be enforced.

Rob Carpenter questioned the board and asked them why sixth grade students weren't being allowed to play. Carpenter submitted a petition with 60 signatures asking the board to change the rules on the topic.

Mike Ryan questioned if it was fair to prohibit sixth grade students from trying out while putting eighth grade students that may not be as talented on the team.

Kristi Hikel, the Alton Middle School Athletic Director, suggested that the best athletes be allowed to play.

"Some girls come out who skill wise are way behind the other girls," Hikel added.

Board member Lynda Goossens brought up the fact to the board that four years ago sixth grade students weren't allowed to play on the middle school teams.

Goossens is concerned with some of the younger players making the transition to bigger fields at such a young age, particularly in baseball.

Mike Nickerson, who has two sons who will be affected by this rule, is concerned that his son will be held back as a sixth grader if he doesn't make the team.

Vice Chairperson Terri Noyes is concerned what will happen to seventh and eighth grader students who get cut as a result of sixth grade students playing.

"A lot that I have witnessed, I see kids that might get cut in seventh grade," Noyes said. "They might flourish by the time they are a sophomore."

Cydney Johnson, former president of the Alton Youth League, voiced her concern and is worried about age requirements. She believes that the best players should be playing and is worried about the safety issues of having players of lesser ability play just because they are in seventh or eighth grade.

Noyes brought up the fact that if a player plays up as a sixth grade student, where will they go in eighth grade. They can't play up at that point.

Nickerson said that an eighth grade player could become a leader on the field where his or her skills have begun to plateau.

Principal Bonnie Jean Kuras stressed to the board that cuts on middle school teams are only made when they are absolutely necessary.

The board placed the topic on the agenda for its next meeting, and board member Krista Argiropolis stressed that they have some work to do. She stressed the other members of the board to create some action items in response to strong public input.

Noyes stressed the need to make decision on the policy.

"We need to envision what we want the policy to be," Noyes added. "That's where we need to sit down and deal with it. Where do we want to draw that line?"

The enrollment at Alton Central School as of Dec. 1 was announced as 560 students.

Noyes recently asked Chair Jeff St. Cyr to request that Superintendent Kathy Holt review with the school lawyer if Goossens had a conflict of interest. Goossens is employed at Barnstead Elementary School.

Goossens questioned why the board spent the $224 legal fee to review the issue when they could have just talked about it.

The board discussed the Kindergarten Plus program briefly, but they agreed to table the issue until a later date. The program is in the budget, but hasn't been established yet.

The board approved a 2.4 percent increase in the guaranteed maximum rate for health insurance. They also approved the budget transfer of $1,918.43 for a licensing fee for the program "Study Island."

Feb. 5 at 1 p.m. was set as the deliberative session date and Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. was set as the snow date. The ballot date was set as March 8.

The board also approved nearly 15 Warrant articles that will be listed on next year's ballot.

The board approved a default budget of $12,858,171 for the 2012 fiscal year.

The installation of a new auditory system that would allow teachers and students to improve classroom communication was approved by the board. The system will cost $16,134 and will provide 19 wireless setups throughout the school and will be funded through ARRA grants.

The Alton School Board is scheduled to meet next on Monday, Jan. 10, at 6 p.m. at the Alton Central School library.

Tim Croes can be reached at tcroes@salmonpress.com or 569-3126

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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