Follow-Up: Athletics, Activities and the Arts

Dear Families and Staff,

I want to thank everyone for the great dialogue on the recent blog related to athletics, activities, the arts and The Bellingham Promise.

I received some much appreciated feedback about expanding our offerings to engage more students.

One idea I received was for a family punch card from a mom who wrote, “My son is a 3 sport athlete. We will spend over $270 to attend his football games alone.” This is something we’ve been working on as we’re hearing from families who can’t afford to see their own children play and perform. Please stay tuned as we hope to pilot a discounted family pass during the upcoming winter sports season.

Also thank you to those who blogged with me about highlighting student athletes’ GPAs on game rosters. For many years, game rosters with students’ names have been published and those with a GPA of 3.5 and above have been marked with an asterisk. I explained why we wanted to discontinue the practice of publishing individual student GPAs on game rosters because we value grades as one measure of a student’s success, as well as the other whole child outcomes in The Bellingham Promise. We also want to protect individual student information and ensure all students feel welcome to participate. However, we are hearing from many parents who take great pride in this practice and have asked that we reconsider:

“I too am very disappointed in the discontinuation of the honoring of the student athletes on the sports rosters. Student athletes are suppose to be students first then athletes and to be able to maintain a 4.0 or a 3.5 grade average while keeping up with the demands of being an athlete is quite the accomplishment.”

We also discovered by looking into this issue further that not all of our sports publish rosters in this way and we have some inconsistent practices. Through all of this dialogue, some ideas have emerged including that we publish the average team GPA on rosters or acknowledge a team’s scholastic cup and sportsmanship honors on rosters. Please keep the ideas coming because we want to continue to celebrate student athletes’ scholastic achievements without singling out students unnecessarily. The WIAA (Washington Interscholastic Activities Association), for example, recognizes team GPA.

For the time being, we plan to maintain the past practice of using asterisks to highlight individual GPAs of 3.5 and above on game rosters while we discuss this issue further with parents and student athletes while ensuring that those who are uncomfortable with this practice have a voice in the conversations, representative of this comment I received:

“As a member of the Bellingham community at large, I thank the school district for finding so many ways for students to have access to different opportunities regardless of social-economic status! As a mother of a student who was recently identified with dyslexia (and who works his butt off just to meet grade level standards (and sometime still “falls short”)), I appreciate the fact that the district will no longer be publishing GPAs on game rosters. I imagine there will be those who disagree with me, but there are plenty of other times and more appropriate places for students to be recognized for the academic achievements… I am working on noticing abilities more rather than always focusing on what our society often views as “dis” abilities. Thank you for giving our students who shine as athletes (and artists, and more in other arenas) the opportunity to celebrate and enjoy their strengths and perhaps passions, without the reminder of what may be a struggle for them. Believe me, they know, without the reminder.”

I’m hopeful that we can find some win-wins on this issue. We want to decrease barriers for all students who may not have had the same opportunities to participate in extra-curriculars leading up to high school due to issues beyond their control including socio-economic background, ethnicity, race and disabilities.

Thank you again for all of the conversation and passion for our athletics, activities and the arts,

Greg Baker

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