City Col. resumes stricter eligibility

Losses cost school rest of boys JV, varsity basketball seasons

February 17, 2000|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

City College officials canceled the remainder of their varsity and JV boys basketball seasons yesterday, because too many players failed to meet a set of academic guidelines more stringent than those of other Baltimore City public schools.

Principal Joseph Wilson had initiated a stricter set of eligibility requirements for all extracurricular activities at City College in September. His policy was later suspended by Baltimore City Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Booker for the annual City-Poly football game and then re-imposed by Wilson on Feb. 3, the start of the latest semester.

Wilson said that Booker intervened after some parents of football players, who were told that they could not play in the long-running City-Poly game on Nov. 5, complained.

Booker could not be reached to comment yesterday, but Anne Carusi, area executive officer for the southern area schools which includes City, said: "There was tradition there, and Dr. Booker agreed to let [City's new policy] stop for that period of time."

Although the current citywide eligibility policy requires athletes to pass all but one course to remain eligible, the City College policy requires athletes and those involved in other extracurricular activities to earn at least a 70 overall average and at least a 60 average in three of four courses on each report card.

In addition, City College students must have no more than four unexcused absences or 14 unexcused instances of tardiness to participate.

George Petrides, City's athletic director and football and girls basketball coach, said the academic requirements had not been enforced until yesterday. The three players he had removed from the football team in November did not meet the attendance or on-time requirements.

Currently, there is no citywide policy governing eligibility for other extracurricular activities, but Carusi said an extracurricular task force has been formed to study the possibility of implementing one. The task force, which has met once, will present its recommendations to the new board of school commissioners on Feb. 29.

Carusi said the task force is not planning to impose City College's standards on other city schools, but that having one uniform policy that covered all city public schools and all extracurricular activities would be helpful. A new policy, if one is recommended, would not go into effect until fall at the earliest, she said.

Yesterday, Petrides and boys basketball coach Daryl Wade recommended that both boys basketball squads forfeit their final games against Patterson tomorrow, because two-thirds of the JV squad and several varsity players had not met the 70 average in their most recent report cards, which were distributed last Friday. The varsity team will not participate in the state tournament.

The girls basketball, wrestling and swimming teams lost players, but Petrides said they had enough athletes to continue competing.

Petrides said he does not like that the new policy was implemented without being approved by the city school board.

"It's no secret I do disagree with some part of the policy," said Petrides. "In researching all [other] jurisdictions, there wasn't a policy that associated lateness and absences to eligibility, other than to say a player cannot participate on the day he's absent.

"I believe students should be able to maintain a 2.0 average, but there [have] been exceptions. Some students I've coached have struggled with a 2.0, only to get it in the end and go on and do real well in college."

Wilson said the impetus for the policy began in January 1999, when the administration and teaching staff noticed that the absentee rate at the school was increasing.

Last summer, school officials decided to craft the policy regarding unexcused absences as an incentive for students to be involved in after-school programs.

"We found out that the upperclassmen made up most of the absences," Wilson said. "We thought that the best way to affect them was to impact their privileges."

In addition to after-school activities, the policy also affects other privileges, including participation in junior and senior proms, class-sponsored trips, the school newspaper, and student government.

According to documents obtained by The Sun, only 25 of 491 students at City participating in fall sports and other activities failed to achieve a 70 average. The documents indicate that eight of those were on the football team. Only nine of the 491 exceeded unexcused absences and 11 surpassed the unexcused tardiness total.

Wilson said reaction to the new standards from parents and the student body has been mixed.

"Most everyone agrees with the underlying goal to improve attendance and academic performance, and they agree that the rules in abstract make sense," he said. "There are a lot of people who have asked, `Why are you allowing anyone to have four absences or 14 tardies?' "

Wilson and his policy appear to have wide support from the City College faculty and its Parents Teachers Students Organization based on two letters addressed to Booker last fall. A letter signed by about 30 faculty members and another from PTSO president Melvin Tyrone Bond -- both obtained by The Sun -- outline support for Wilson.

Staff writers Liz Bowie, Edward Lee, Lem Satterfield and Gerard Shields contributed to this article.

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