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PR-B School Board: Parent airs sports participation-coaching concerns

The Pine River-Backus School Board agreed to review concerns and recommendations submitted by Marika Olivier, a parent speaking on behalf of herself, student athletes and their parents at the Monday, March 19, school board meeting. PineandLakes.com Illustration

The Pine River-Backus School Board agreed to review concerns and recommendations submitted by Marika Olivier, a parent speaking on behalf of herself, student athletes and their parents at the Monday, March 19, school board meeting.

"I'm representing a number of parents who don't feel comfortable coming or stepping up due to retaliation their children received when they did that before, or to other parents who have witnessed that before," Marika said.

She confirmed with the board that the school's mission statement applies to both academics and athletics, before going on.

"What do you expect the sports programs to look like?" Marika asked. "What are we trying to teach our children in this area of education? What is your vision you see? Are we out to only win, or are we out to also teach our children teamwork, sportsmanship and those types of things?"

Olivier told the board that she and other parents would like to see a survey or other method for students, faculty, coaches and others to evaluate the quality of the school's coaching staff. This request, she said, came in response to several complaints and concerns shared among the parents and athletes, among them:

• A need for a more solid definition of junior high athlete versus junior varsity versus varsity.

• A review of the age-appropriateness of involving younger athletes in sports dominated by older athletes.

• Possible favoritism in sports. Olivier said it seemed like some students are treated special and groomed to eventually have their names displayed in the gym for their athletic accomplishments.

• Locker room behavior of some coaches. Examples included use of curse words and aggressive behavior such as slamming lockers.

• Possible penalties for students who do not participate in summer activities.

• Failure to enforce the school's dress code on game days. She said she witnessed a player wearing inappropriate clothing to a game, clothing that the student had apparently been wearing during the day.

• Bullying behavior by students, and possibly unintentionally encouraged by coaches (again relating to names displayed in the gymnasium).

• A seventh-grader playing during varsity events ahead of upperclassmen.

• Lack of time on field for some students, even in situations where their team has a large lead early on.

Olivier also addressed a request by Activities Director Randy Schwegel for the board to review its academic requirements for athletes. The request was not to make the standards less stringent. Schwegel said there were important athletes recently who were ineligible to play because they hadn't made up work on time for current deadlines.

"We had a couple kids at crucial times this winter who could not compete," Schwegel said. "Both of those students had their work caught up and made up, but because they missed timelines, they were not able to compete in their events."

Former high school Principal Andrew Forbort had been working on a policy that would allow students to become eligible to play around mid-quarter once they were caught up. Olivier asked if the board should really adjust the deadline rules to benefit students who couldn't meet the deadline. She said it was an issue of teaching responsibility.

In other business Monday, the board:

• Approved hiring a second head coach for track, giving the sport two head coaches and two assistant coaches. Board member Garny Gaffey said track is important because it contributes to many other sports.

• Learned that Tucker Sheley has been named Assistant Coach of the Year in this section. Sheley is an assistant girls basketball coach.

• Adopted a resolution for the termination and nonrenewal of the teaching contract of Dawn Snook and authorize posting for a replacement.

• Authorized posting for an additional 1.0 special education teacher for the 2018-19 school year.

• Accepted the resignation of science teacher Donald Moen effective with the end of the 2017-18 school year and authorized for replacement.

• Approved hiring Jordan Ackerman as elementary teacher effective with the 2018-19 school year; Jacob Hradsky as assistant golf coach; and Justin Franke as assistant track coach.

• Approved the 2018-19 school calendar.