East Baton Rouge School Board to tackle budget, charter schools, magnet programs at meeting Thursday _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- East Baton Rouge Parish Schools Superintendent Warren Drake.

East Baton Rouge Parish middle and high school students will likely need just a 1.5 grade-point average if they want to take part in sports and other extracurricular activities this school year, rather than the 2.0 gpa they’ve had to achieve for the past decade.

New Superintendent Warren Drake is urging the School Board to make the change this month, in time for fall athletics. It’s on the agenda for the board’s meeting Thursday.

If approved, it would return the school system to the threshold that the vast majority of Louisiana public schools set for their students when it comes to extracurricular activities and sports.

“This is about giving our kids more opportunities and our parents more opportunities to be involved in our schools,” Drake said.

Since taking over on June 1, Drake has signaled his interest in returning to a 1.5 GPA standard. It’s the standard that was in effect from 1996 to 2002 when he was principal of Tara High in Baton Rouge, and from 2002 to 2012 when he served as superintendent of Zachary public schools. Drake said he feels strongly that more students should have the chance to learn from coaches and club sponsors.

“They teach leadership, they teach discipline, they teach ownership, they teach responsibility and things like that,” Drake said. “I believe the more opportunities we give for students to be led by good teachers and leaders, the better off they will be.”

In 2005, then-East Baton Rouge Parish School Superintendent Charlotte Placide successfully increased the minimum GPA for extracurricular activities from 1.5 to 2.0, rolling the change out over a three-year period. The theory was that the students would rise to the higher expectations. At the time, more than 2,200 middle and high school students were in danger of losing eligibility if they didn’t raise their grades, or about one out of every 10 students.

Drake said he’s urging a return to the 1.5 GPA standard based on his personal experience as an educator. He acknowledged that he has not looked at whether the 2.0 GPA threshold worked or not, but said he doubts it.

“If that were the case, you would have a lot of other school systems adopting it,” he said.

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association since 2012 has required that students maintain at least a C average to remain eligible for sports but allows school districts to define what a C is. Drake is proposing that in East Baton Rouge Parish a C would range from 1.5 to a 2.4 GPA for extracurricular activities.

LHSAA also requires that students earn a minimum number of course credits to maintain eligibility; the number varies depending on whether schools use a traditional or a block schedule.

LHSAA does not track how school districts define a C average. Through the years, East Baton Rouge and Jefferson parishes have been the most prominent districts in the state that have set a 2.0 GPA as their minimums for eligibility for sports and extracurricular activities. Eddie Bonine, executive director of the LHSAA, said Monday that his staff told him a few school districts have standards above the minimum, but he doesn’t know how many.