Superintendent Warren Drake’s recent call for a lowered GPA requirement for East Baton Rouge Parish students to participate in athletics and other extracurricular activities struck a nerve with a School Board member in Tangipahoa Parish.

Board member Jim “J” Kelly said he couldn’t support moving Tangipahoa in the same direction.

“I could not consider lowering academic standards when student achievement is the entire reason we’re here,” Kelly said at a board meeting earlier this week. “He (Drake) says he hasn’t looked at whether 2.0 works or not. Well, maybe we need to know whether it works or not” before lowering the requirement to 1.5, as Drake advocated.

Kelly said student athletes’ academic performance affects their schools’ and district’s performance scores, and school officials should be pushing them to perform beyond the minimum required to join a team.

“We should push them even further so we have not only good athletes to cheer on the field but more people to cheer for at graduations and on to college as well,” Kelly said.

Drake announces new hires for EBR school system

Drake, meanwhile, has announced some new hires, including new leaders to oversee middle and high schools, as he continued filling in more blanks on the organizational chart he developed earlier this summer after taking over the school system.

Drake eliminated 34 positions while creating nine positions — a reorganization that saved about $1 million.

One school system veteran, John McCann, has moved into the newly created position of director of high schools, leaving his most recent job as an assistant principal at Belaire High. McCann oversaw high schools from 2005 to 2007 as an assistant superintendent. Before that, he spent 10 years as principal of Woodlawn High School.

McCann, however, won’t supervise the even better known Nan McCann, the principal of both Baton Rouge Magnet and Lee high schools, since they are married, Drake said. Instead, Andrea O’Konski, a longtime school administrator who deals with high schools, will evaluate Nan McCann.

Other prominent personnel changes include:

Adam Smith, promoted to the new position of associate superintendent of academics from executive director of middle schools.

Gary Reese, promoted to the new position of chief of student support services. He previously oversaw the transportation department as administrative director for auxiliary services.

Ben Necaise, replacing Smith as executive director of middle schools. He has spent the past nine months as a consultant with the Louisiana Department of Education. He spent five years as principal of West Feliciana Middle School in St. Francisville and in 2013 was a finalist for state principal of the year for the state. In 2003, when he taught American history at West Feliciana High School, he was named state teacher of the year for high schools.

Advocate staff writers Heidi Kinchen and Charles Lussier contributed to this report.