By John Lanier

Board Struggles With 6th Grade Sports – Brevard NC


September 26, 2016

Transylvania County School board members continued to struggle with how to handle sixth grade interscholastic athletics at their regular meeting last Monday night.

Until this year, sixth graders were not allowed to participate in interscholastic athletics. However, a ruling at the state level now allows sixth graders to participate.

School Superintendent Dr. Jeff McDaris said he and Alan Justice, athletic director for the county schools, have been trying to devise a plan for sixth grade athletes.

McDaris said they believe that this year it would be best to allow sixth graders to try out for the regular middle school teams with seventh and eighth graders. He said time constraints and the fact that no neighboring school systems are planning to have a sixth grade only league make that the most viable option.

Justice expressed concern about the significant differences among middle school students and that only one or two sixth graders would even make a team.

“There is a big difference between a sixth grader and an eight grader,” said Justice.

Griffin agreed, stating, “I am totally against sixth graders playing against eighth graders.”

Both McDaris and Justice said that with so many students now eligible to try out, maximum numbers would have to be set for teams and more students would have to be cut.

Griffin said he feared there could be a move to have five players from each grade on a team, which would mean not all of the best players would be on a team.

Griffin said if there were a sixth grade only league more students would get to play and it would improve the overall athletics’ program. He asked if anyone else had plans to have a sixth grade only league.

McDaris said he had floated the idea of a sixth grade only league to the superintendents in nearby counties, but there were “no takers right now.”

However, McDaris predicted that within the year a large school district in the state would start a sixth grade only league and everyone else would follow.

“It will probably happen,” said McDaris.

But he reiterated that such a league would require additional expenses for travel, uniforms, coaches and officials and the revenues from such a league would probably be small.

Justice said it would also mean the school system would need more coaches and he is struggling now to find enough people to coach the middle school teams that already exist. A final decision regarding sixth grade participation in interscholastic athletics is expected before the winter sports season begins.

Policy Changes

•The board passed a policy giving the superintendent the authority to make change orders up to $90,000.

Board attorney Chad Donnahoo said the policy allows the superintendent to make such changes so as not to impede construction. The change orders, however, have to be covered by money already allocated for the project and the orders would later be presented to the school board for their approval.

If a change order exceeds $90,000, then it must be pre-approved by the board.

•The board discussed a policy that would allow health care practitioners, including school nurses, to administer medications.

Griffin asked who is responsible for clearing athletes to play who have received concussions.

Justice said a licensed physician has to clear the athlete to play. Since all cases are different, there is no timeline for when an athlete can resume playing.

Griffin also asked if school personnel do not have to implement do not resusucitate (DNR) orders.

Brian Weaver, senior director of Human Resources, said school “employees will neither accept nor honor DNR orders.”

McDaris said it is the nature of any educator to save a child.

“Legally, they are not binding on us as a school system,” said Donnahoo of DNR orders. “We are not going to stand there and do nothing. This is the most liability safe position the school system can be in.”

Public Discipline

Michele Crum, the parent of a kindergarten student at Pisgah Forest Elementary School, implored the school board to do away with posted behavioral charts. Under the system, students have clothesline clips that are moved to denote negative and positive behavior and can be seen by anyone in the classroom. Crum, who is also a teacher, said this model reduces motivation to learn among students and has them focus more on pleasing the teacher.

“I hate that this is something that happens,” she said.

She said rewards and punishments must be continuously increased in order for the system to work, but that it ultimately fails because teachers continue to use it in later grades and behavior is not positively modified.

She said the public display of discipline is distracting and even those students who are well behaved focus on the clips.

She said her daughter talks about who got their clip moved, not what books she read or friends she made, when she comes home from school.

“It’s shaming,” she said.

Crum emphasized that children who are just 5 years old and lack developmental skills and may have never been in a social setting like a classroom are expected to behave well from the very first day of school.

“This began the very first day of kindergarten,” she said. “This blows my mind.”

She said the children who need unconditional love and guidance, which they may not be receiving at home, are the ones most likely to have their clips moved as a measure of negative behavior.

Crum said the county schools have “great, hardworking” teachers, but there are better approaches to discipline, such as teaching social and emotional skills. She asked the board to consider better alternatives to modifying student behavior.

Summer Trips Abroad

Teachers and students reported on two successful international field trips this summer. One group went to Costa Rica while another group went to France.

Students who went to Costa Rica went to a volcano, chocolate factory, coffee plantation, cloud forest and butterfly garden; saw crocodiles and other tropical creatures; and participated in zip lining, Kayaking, folklore dances and a local talent show.

Students who went to France visited Mount St. Michel, the D-Day beaches and cemetery in Normandy, the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Versailles, a Renaissance fair and the Louvre, where they saw the Mona Lisa.

“It was just really special,” said Aundrea Odom, a history teacher at Rosman High who went on the trip to France with her daughter.

Other News

•Linda Crowther, chair of the Designer Purse Bingo held at the Burlingame Country Club, presented a check for $25,000 to Cathy Credle, principal of T.C. Henderson elementary school.

•The school system’s nutrition department provided approximately 22,600 meals to students with its summer feeding program.


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