March 18, 2015 -- At last Thursday's North Shore Board of Education meeting, Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick and the seven board trustees discussed the process and areas of focus for the Athletics Department review that will begin next month.
The review will be overseen by two retired Athletic Directors - Ed Cinelli formerly of the Patchogue-Medford Schools and Nancy Kalafus who had worked at Garden City.
Dr. Melnick said that this spring the reviewers will visit sites, distribute surveys, and arrange meetings with graduating student athletes and their parents, as well as with School Board members and administrators.
In the fall, the reviewers will survey middle school and high school students and meet with parent focus groups, middle school and high school coaches,the Booster Club, and teacher organizations. The final report will be submitted in December 2015
The purpose of the review, Dr. Melnick explained is "to determine whether the philosophies and policies of the district are being followed and whether a communication line involving students, parents, coaches, and district administration is adhered to. Furthermore, the review process is intended to assist the district in providing an exemplary interscholastic athletic program for all students while linking it to the academic mission of the school."
The review will focus on the following areas -
During the discussion that followed the Superintendent's remarks, Trustee Joanna Commander spoke first. The Trustee, who had served for a number of years as an athletic director in two districts, offered praise for the process as well as a few suggestions. Board members had received copies of a draft survey that would be distributed to students and parents and she recommended that there be more specificity in the questions, as they could perhaps be construed differently by different people.
With regard to allowing students to "challenge up," she said that the state was making eligibility for seventh and eighth graders to play on high school teams more restrictive and that she believed it was especially important to consider a 7th or 8th grader's emotional maturity when making that decision as they would be playing with 17 and 18 year-olds.
Additionally, she said that she was happy that health and safety issues were being addressed and that a part of that ought to be looking at female athlete triad syndrome - which is marked by any one or a combination of three conditions - eating disorder, amennorrhea, and osteoperosis.
Trustee Marianne Russo emphasized the college admissions process in her comments. One question to consider, she said, is whether coaches identify summer camp opportunities where scouting and recruitment by coaches often take place. Also she said she would like the Athletics Department and Guidance more closely tied together.
Trustee Sara Jones said that perhaps the review could be broadened a bit to consider "how Athletics fits in with the overall school district mission." She added that it would be useful to survey former participants and those who have chosen not to participate in athletics.
Trustee Toni Labbate encouraged looking at the modified middle school program to see if there are enough teams to accommodate those students interested in participating, and to consider how "success" in the middle school program ought to be measured, and how athletics fits into the overall middle school culture. Trustee Commander replied that in the modified program, "success is measured by the level of participation."
Trustee Michael Nightingale said that he believed the focus should be on the students who participate in sports, and not on those who do not participate. He also recommended that the reviewers look into whether student athletes feel as if they are being treated fairly by coaches.
Board President Herman Berliner said that the district needs to make sure that it prioritizes academic achievement and safety concerns.
During public comment, several parents offered their thoughts on the review. Glen Head resident Lisa Visa said that it is important to look at communication between teachers, coaches and other extra curricular activities and it can be unfair for students to be pulled in different directions.
Denise Reiner of Glen Head emphasized the importance of health education and the importance of having female role models.
Larry Ruisi said that the review should be as broad as possible and look at the connection between academics and athletics.
Frank Castiglione of Roslyn Harbor said that a good athletics program is not "all about winning and losing." "It's more important for coaches to convey and to teach sportsmanship . . . and to not make students athletes feel bad about themselves." He expressed concerns about the impact that certain aggressive coaching styles can have on some kids and "that coaches need to recognize that each kid is different" and that they get to know each of their players. For most student athletes, he said, playing organized sports ends in high school, and so the athletics review ought to be done with the understanding of how the school sports experience shapes the person.
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