The Board of Education voted yesterday to increase the minimum grade point average required for students participating sports but not for those in other extracurricular activities.
New board members Michael Pace and Joseph Foster and student board member Jay Witcher joined Jo Ann Tollenger, Thomas Twombly and Maureen Carr-York in voting to raise the minimum GPA from 1.6 to 2.0, beginning with the winter sport season.
Under the new policy, no student with a failing grade would be allowed to play sports.
"Students come to school to get an education, not to play sports," Mr. Witcher said. "[The GPA] should be a 2.0."
Under the new requirement, students participating in sports would not be able to carry an E grade and play. Students receiving an E would have 20 days to bring up the failing grade.
During the 20-day period, they would not be allowed to participate in practices, games or activities.
Board members agreed to study raising the GPA to 2.0 for students participating in other extracurricular activities, such as the band, drama and foreign language clubs.
Board vice president Dorothy Chaney cast the only vote against raising the GPA, citing the lack of public participation.
"I am very disappointed with this board," Mrs. Chaney said. "To move forward with this issue when the public has not had the opportunity for participation in unconscionable.
"And when you say no 'E' allowed, you're sending a message that they're not allowed to fail at anything," she added.
The board had not been expected to make a decision yesterday. Superintendent C. Berry Carter II had asked his staff to present information to the board in hopes of making a decision next spring.
But Ms. Tollenger picked up where Mr. Twombly, a staunch advocate of raising the GPA, left off last school year.
"We've already spent a lot of time on this subject," Ms. Tollenger said. "I'm very concerned about delaying this until spring. I'm not sure what the data gathering will show. Whatever we do, it's going to affect kids anyway."
Mr. Carter and Mrs. Chaney urged board members not to rush into a decision.
Mrs. Chaney cited several unanswered questions, such as the effect weighted grading -- which allows students to earn higher grade point averages for taking advanced placement classes -- would have on increasing the minimum GPA.
Countywide Advisory Council Chairwoman Anne Young told board members that many parents in the CAC favored the 2.0 minimum.
But, she said, parents were concerned over a number of related issues. "They did have questions on whether a 2.0 is needed for clubs meeting once a week," Mrs. Young said.
"Many of those clubs are thought to be an extension of academics. Parents are in favor of a one 'E' maximum, as long as the overall GPA is a 2.0."
Mrs. Young said many parents, especially those of minority students, complained that students were not being challenged academically and they therefore favored raising the minimum GPA.
Mr. Pace said he believed the school system was sending the wrong message to students by having a minimum GPA requirement of 1.6. "It's important to send the message that school work is just as important as sports," he said.
Board President Vincent O. Leggett abstained from voting. While saying he favored raising the minimum GPA, he believed the board should have given the public more chance for input.
"In the past, we've talked about [raising the GPA] in a very deliberate, organized way," Mr. Leggett said. "This is not what we're doing today."