On Friday morning new Boston Public School Superintendent Dr. Brenda Cassellius toured East Boston High School.
The Superintendent was met by EBHS Headmaster Phil Brangiforte, a group of students, coaches, parents and other members of the high school’s staff.
The visit gave Cassellius the opportunity to see firsthand the work that the high school’s staff has been doing to address learning and achievement gaps, add more innovative programs and extracurricular activities, as well as to hear from students, teachers and parents on what more BPS can do to support the school’s efforts.
One topic that came up was Cassellius exploring the possibility of raising the minimum GPA for students-athletes from 1.67 to 2.5. Currently students playing a sport must maintain a 1.67 GPA or higher while playing sports, as well as have an attendance rate of 85 percent or higher.
“I’m trying to raise the expectations for our student athletes,” said Cassellius. “I would like to see the minimum at 2.5 during the season in which a student is playing a sport. I believe student athletes are students first so I want to raise the expectation around GPA and attendance because in Boston we have an issue around attendance and we need to improve that. I think our student-athletes are role models in schools and so it makes sense that we have higher expectations for them. I’m working with the coaches now to raise the overall GPA to 2.0 with a 2.5 GPA during the season.”
Cassellius said with a renewed focus on athletes also being scholars high schools in Boston can compete during the year on which school team has had or maintained the highest GPA.
“We could give a special honor out to the team that has had the highest GPA during a given season,” said Cassellius.
Cassellius said her plan would also call for a support network for student athletes that start to slip below the 2.0 GPA with tutoring help, academic intervention and other programs to help athletes maintain a high level of academic achievement.
“Student-athletes are going to have to learn these skills if they are going to college,” said Cassellius. “When playing college level sports they are going to need to balance their academics with the sport they are playing to keep their eligibility. I want to set them up for success.”
Her plan was met with some skepticism from EBHS students with one student arguing that some of his peers may not be the best students but love sports. Their participation in school sports, he said, keeps them off the streets and out of trouble. He worried that if the minimum requirements were raised to high to quickly many of these student-athletes may drop the one thing that keeps them coming to school every day.
After discussing this topic Cassellius was shown around the school and visited the high school’s newly rehabbed library, the school’s alternative education program, EBHS’s radio station and communications class, as well as the recently opened student wellness center that is staffed by the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center.