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Even Chess Players Are Falling Because of Grades Policy

January 31, 1985

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ A citywide ruling that bars high school students with bad grades from extracurricular activities is striking out some athletes and has even checkmated a champion chess team.

Cheerleaders have been left cheerless on the sidelines and at least one class president must give up her office.

The undefeated chess team at Classical High, a stereotypical haven of earnest students, lost two of its five players.

″They couldn’t believe it at first,″ said senior Frederick M. Picroski, who remains on the team.

He said the situation at least shows that people are wrong in assuming that ″the chess team is a bunch of square intellectual wimps.″

The 4,994 students in the four city high schools must get at least a ″C″ in all major subjects and not fail any in order to be eligible for extracurricular activities. The policy began recently.

Thomas J. McNulty, athletic director for all city high schools, said he could not provide any figures on students declared ineligible because of grades, but the Springfield Morning Union reported Thursday that 55 of the 134 students participating in winter sports at Classical did not meet the new requirement.

Commerce High School’s girls basketball team earlier this week forfeited the remaining six games of its season because it lost members.

At least 20 athletes at Technical High School could be declared ineligible, including half of Tech’s 20 basketball players, the Springfield newspapers reported. Report cards were due out at Tech Thursday.

The policy was established by the Springfield School Committee at the urging of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which was concerned that minority athletes might be letting their education suffer for the sake of extracurricular activities.

″The intent of the rule is excellent,″ said Classical’s chess club adviser, English teacher Craig D. Dinnie. ″Perhaps not enough importance has been put on grades. But what we ended up with was some small group’s quick-fix solution.″

He complained that a student with a ″B″ average who makes one ″D″ should not be ruled ineligible.

Five of Classical’s seven cheerleaders each made one ″D,″ and the squad’s adviser, Spanish teacher Mena F. DeCarvalho, said she was waiting for school administrators to tell her whether the two girls who made the grade constituted enough of a team to continue cheerleading.

Jennifer Hamelin will have to step down as Classical’s freshman class president because she made a ″D″ in science even though she earned ″Bs″ in all of her other classes.

Classical’s wrestling team was the hardest hit sport, with 20 of 30 athletes declared ineligible, but Coach Dan McLaughlin said the team wouldn’t forfeit the season. Classical’s boys basketball team lost two varsity and three reserve players and the hockey team lost five of its 13 players, coaches said.

David W. Douglas, chairman of Classical’s foreign language department who has taught at the school 18 years, said the rule has made some students work harder.

″It has brought academics to the forefront,″ Douglas said. ″It is sending a message to the public that the schools are not going to tolerate bad grades.″

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