“No Pass-No Play” requires more from OPS athletes

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December 16th, 2013

Omaha, NE – The Omaha Public School Board increased the minimum requirement for student athletes to participate in activities.

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The initiative passed on an 8-0 vote held during a meeting December 2. “No pass/no play” will also prohibit students from participating in any sanctioned activity if they’re failing any of their classes.

Prior to the changes, student athletes in OPS schools were subject to Nebraska Schools Activities Association requirements. These provisions include students possessing at least 20 credit hours, or four classes, from the preceding quarter. Rhonda Branford-Green is the executive director at the NSAA. She called the work by OPS admirable, but added she doesn’t think it would be practical to implement a tougher standard just for the sake of making changes.

“I think we want to look at the best practices of accountability before we would adopt any particular model for increasing a GPA standard or even a class requirement standard,” Blanford-Green said.

Following changes to eligibility requirements for OPS student athletes, Blanford-Green said she received numerous emails from different schools around Nebraska. She said the vast majority of the schools indicated they already have firmer guidelines.

Rhonda Blanford-Green is Executive Director at the Nebraska School Activities Association. (Photo Courtesy NSAA)

Rhonda Blanford-Green is Executive Director at the Nebraska School Activities Association. (Photo Courtesy NSAA)

“I think we have some that have 2.3 and we have some that have 2.5 and I don’t know that OPS would want their accountability measures to be used as the standard,” Blanford-Green said.

Blanford-Green said the NSAA needs to do their research on where other Nebraska schools stand when it comes to a minimum standard for student athletes. She also notes the possibility of OPS being behind the eight ball.

“How many of our schools already have a stricter standard,” Blanford-Green said. “And is OPS maybe four or five years behind what most of our schools have already implemented.”

Officials at Millard, Elkhorn and Gretna public schools said making a change to the minimum requirement is not a priority. Mike Smith, assistant principal and activities director at Ralston High School, said they currently have a plan in place to counter having to rely on a 2.0 GPA.

Officials at Ralston will put out a list of students who are failing classes. Each teacher is given what is called blue cards–a card with the student’s name, the teachers name and the class the student is failing. Student athletes get a blue card on Monday if they are failing a class. The student then has until Wednesday at 4 p.m. to complete work and turn the course into passing status. Once the card is signed by the teacher of the failing class, students are immediately eligible.

“Obviously it’s some work, it is some paper work and so forth,” Smith said. “But when a kid sees that blue card, they want to play. They get after it and get their stuff done and then hopefully we can get them to a point where they don’t get blue cards.”

Smith said Ralston isn’t worried about ‘minimum requirements’, as it is constantly monitoring students work.

Jonathon Perone, head coach of the girls’ basketball team at Benson High school, said he thinks OPS’s recent changes will help students succeed. Perone, who is in his seventh season as head coach at Benson, said he implemented a 2.0 minimum GPA for his players when he arrived on campus. Perone also said tutoring and after-school instruction at Benson have helped his students keep up with their schoolwork.

Jonathon Perone (center) said the standards are high for his players. (Photo Courtesy Jonathon Perone)

Jonathon Perone (center) said the standards are high for his players. (Photo Courtesy Jonathon Perone)

He said he has one player on his 14 member varsity roster that would be ineligible under the new 2.0 GPA requirement. But the student’s teammates have helped her improve her grades by keeping her accountable.

“So that is the exact example that we are looking for of kids that they can prove to you that even though they might struggle somewhat here if they jump on board with what’s going on and the coach challenges them then it can happen,” Perone said.

Perone said it has added motivation to students who have been ineligible. Instead of practicing or playing with their team they are attending tutoring classes to get back on the right track.

He also said while there may be hiccups in the plan for OPS schools, he foresees it helping students in Omaha going forward.

“I think that (the) one, two, three year learning curve is going to take effect and we will lose a couple (of players) but I think at the end of the day when we look back I think it will be a good move,” Perone said.

The changes to OPS standards will happen in a layered phasing. Next year students will be able to fail only one class and still be considered eligible. Starting in 2015, if a student is failing a class they will be considered ineligible.

Finally, in 2016 the 2.0 GPA minimum will be entirely employed. Students will need to keep a 2.0 from the previous quarter or maintain a cumulative GPA higher than 2.0, as well as not be failing any classes to participate.

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