Sto-Rox school board gets another earful on policy

Students activities at root of complaints

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With many yelling from their seats, "When are the next elections because you will be out," several Sto-Rox parents and students upset over the new academic policy got another chance last night to vent their frustration with school board members.

"I feel it was horrendous to spring it on our students after the season began," said English teacher Lisa Hortert, one of roughly 50 people who attended the meeting.

"I'm proud to be a Sto-Rox teacher, but I am appalled at the behavior of those elected to lead this district. You are quickly making my district the laughing stock of Allegheny County."

Under the new grading policy, students must have at least a C grade in all their core courses to be eligible for extracurricular activities. Any student who got a D or lower in a core course would be ineligible. Grades in elective courses do not count toward academic eligibility.

Many of the parents and students argued that eligibility to participate should be based on an overall 2.0 grade point average -- or C grade -- for all classes, not just core classes, and for academic standards to be raised for all students.

Janet Gerster, a mother of two Sto-Rox High School girls who participate in cheerleading and softball, said she felt insulted when board members told the media parents were only concerned with their children's performance on the sports field, not in the classroom. She agreed that something needs to be done to improve performance in all children.

"What we want is a policy that can meet that end. This policy is only going to disenfranchise our kids," she said.

"The policy has no plans for students who aren't involved or whose season is over," said district Athletic Director Bill Palermo.

Ms. Gerster said it seemed like the discord among board members over the decision on whether or not the prom counted as an activity reflected the confusion and holes in the policy.

"You guys can't even agree on what an extracurricular is," she said, to loud cheers.

Early on during the meeting, many of the students and parents appeared restless listening to the board debate budget items.

One of the board members suggested that the board move on to the audience participation and return to the other agenda topics later.

However, school board Vice President Elizabeth Smith quieted the cheering crowd and reminded everyone that she was running the meeting and it was "not time for public comment."

Many parents responded by yelling out "My child needs to study," and "Move on with it, it's a school night."

Much of the debate, once it got under way, was a continuation of last week's school board meeting during which several more parents and students berated the board over the policy.

Many were also upset that students were not allowed to talk during that meeting.

Mr. Palermo said that any changes to the eligibility policy won't be made until after Oct. 28.

Emily Gibb: or 412-263-1985.


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