Can You Say CYA?

The latest story in the long-running saga that is the Athletics Department at Garfield continues on at the Times.

I'm not going to review all the latest details because I think this is absolutely ridiculous and why we in the U.S. and in our high schools and colleges allow TOO MUCH emphasis on sports.  I  absolutely believe sports helps keep many kids interested in school and focused (don't get a good grade, no participation).  But time and again we see "star" athletes protected.  That the Athletic Director and possibly the principal were jumping through hoops to protect this player is wrong. 

Someone is NOT telling the truth.

That Garfield was severely overcrowded and yet somehow there was room for a 3-person class with a sub teacher is disgraceful and there is NO excuse for it in these hard fiscal times.

I'm sure the student will sail into UW and be a big basketball star and still can't string two sentence of basic Spanish together.  This is not what education should be. 

I note this comes one day after the district announced that FIVE Garfield students are National Merit Scholars. This is out of 15,000 students eligible and 1500 awards made. They are:
  • Ben Corwin
  • Josh Davids
  • Tai Levy
  • Lucie Saether
  • Emily Shack
Congratulations and good luck to them.  This is what education is about, not propping up star athletes.


Anonymous said…
Maybe the 'district' should reopen the case of where Tony Wroten really lives; Renton. Why is he even attending Garfield; SPORTS! A shame when so many student's who live in Seattle and are not athletes can't have his seat!
anonymous said…
Sports are a big part of American culture, and as such there is a big emphasis on them in US high schools. Nothing inherently wrong with that. In fact most school sports programs run efficiently, and most coaches are very ethical. Instead of focusing on school sports in general, we should stay focused on the bad apple coach that is the subject of this investigation. Just like the occasional bad apple teacher, there is a bad apple coach. It's not the norm, it's the exception.
Central Mom said…
Thanks for printing the names of the National Merit Scholars. Those are the kids we should be talking about...and the teachers and school staff and family and community that helped them achieve the honor.
zb said…
Peon -- I have to disagree. As far as I can tell, bad behavior in high level play (in high school or college) is not an exception, it's the norm.

I believe that's the inevitable result when sports *achievement* becomes a school focus. When school is supposed to be about academics, but another outside focus (star athletes) are being cultivated, the central purpose of the school (education) gets skewed in the name of other goals. Elite sports should be practiced outside of school. Schools can still have sports, but only in the central service of the academic goals.
another mom said…
zb -agree and well stated.
Anonymous said…
zb—also in agreement. When schools are strapped for funds, sports should not take the prime status it does at some schools.
There IS something inherently wrong with a country that puts too much emphasis on sports, both amateur and professional.

We decry our educational system and yet nowhere else in the world is money and resources poured into high school sports. Why are we doing worse than other countries? Gee, could it be that we subtly tell the kids that somethings ARE more important than academics.

I love when we bemoan our education system and then turn a blind eye to flaws in the system. What does it say about us as a country when we celebrate athletes more than scholars?
Charlie Mas said…
For some sports, the high school teams are not the focus.

In soccer, for example, the higher level play is on the club teams and select teams rather than on the school teams. This may also be true for volleyball, swimming, rowing, tennis, and some other sports as well.

How hard would it be for baseball, softball, basketball and football leagues - outside of schools - to develop and become the competitive focus while school teams become the place for intramural competition and students who are on the team for the chance to play rather than at the top levels of competition?

I think we would get a big step forward if the Seattle schools formed their own league separate from the WIAA.

How does this idea strike folks?
Charlie Mas said…
What if basketball at Garfield was mostly played by intramural teams?

What if the school team played the entire roster, only played against other Seattle high schools, and had no opportunity to compete for state championships?

Students would still have the opportunity to play - in fact more students would have the opportunity - but it couldn't really be any student's focus and it certainly wouldn't detract from academics.
Anonymous said…
I'd be all for it Charlie. Though I am sure some people will say that the competitive sports are the only thing that keeps kids in school. But it seems from this story that it may keep some kids in school, but not necessarily focused on academics.

This is especially frustrating because Wroten's residence is questionable. As Anonymous notes, it's sad when so many other kids who played by the rules could not get a spot in Garfield.
zb said…
"What if the school team played the entire roster, only played against other Seattle high schools, and had no opportunity to compete for state championships?"

I'm all for it. The problem, though, is that there isn't an out-of-school elite league for basketball and football. is there? Given that, we would be doing a disservice to kids who want to play at elite levels in Seattle. But, I would love to see systems develop that moved elite play out of schools, and left school sports as "no-cut" teams that were evenly matched, with no great incentive for schools to offer special academic support (or, alternatively, offer no support and lie) to elite players.

I do think that kids who want to play elite sports should have an opportunity to do so. I don't want to conflate a general distaste for competitive sports with a distaste for them in the school setting. The problem isn't with sports competition (which people have a right to decide about for themselves -- I've recently become a convert to some of the value of competitive athletics), but with dampening the mission of school (to educate) with other goals.

And, for those who point out that sports/team play is educational, I agree. But, overly-competitive sports are tracking at their worst. To the extent that team sports offer educational benefits they shouldn't be limited to a select few who make the cut.

(PS: I think that forcing Garfield to opt out of intermural athletics for the next five years or so would be a reasonable response to this travesty. Also think that the principal clearly has complicity and should not be given a free ride).
Jan said…
zb: I was totally with you -- until the last paragraph. Punishing the next 5 years of 14 and 15 year olds for the failings of coaches (who have been fired) and kids who have graduated, is the sort of stupid, senseless thing the NCAA does. You really would tell the 7th grade girls at WMS and Tops, who are looking forward to swimming, or playing volleyball, or running cross country, that their high school sports opportunities are over? Seriously?

They have fired the coach/perpetrators, which would seem to me to the the appropriate response. As much as I don't want to see leadership churn, if the fault also lies with the principal, then maybe he leaves (or is placed on probation, or his salary is docked, or whatever). But I think punishing future years of kids for the past failings of adults is flat wrong. I hate that it is done to college kids. I hate even MORE the idea of doing it to 14 and 15 year old boys and girls.
Anonymous said…
This is much too deep a conversation to have on a blog and there are a lot of ideas on this topic, I will mention a couple.

One (in response to Charlie's comments) - COMPETITIVE sports at any level are beneficial in my opinion. Not competing for a championship would water that down so much it wouldn't be fun to play. I still cringe at the fact we don't keep score at certain levels so we don't "damage" their self esteem. Guess what, all the kids know the score at the end, so far I'm not seeing any adverse effects. Competitive sports teach a lot that is true in life and are valuable for many people. Certainly they are an idol for many and this creates major issues but let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Two - The AD at Garfield is getting a raw deal and is known for helping kids succeed outside of sports. He will get his open hearing and when that happens the truth come out. He has nothing to hide and I believe will be vindicated.

Jan said…
NEDAD: those are both good points. I guess I should have said -- my post was only on the issue of whether it is appropriate to "punish" the next several years of kids, for adult transgressions. I assumed, for the purpose of that argument, that the adults had transgressed, and merited punishment. I don't mean to prejudge anyone in this case, as I have also heard good things about Mr. Valiere -- but I have no knowledge either way. The reported "facts" certainly look bad, but the character testimonials don't match the reports.

And -- one more thing (in response to anonymous at 8:52) -- Tony Wroten lived, and attended, Seattle schools for years -- at least middle school, and I don't know where he went before that. When his parents moved to Renton, they arranged for him to continue to live in the CD (with his grandmother, maybe?). Eventually, I think they (or the grandmother) rented a house near Garfield. The problem (if I recall correctly, is that the School sent a private investigator to sit outside and monitor whether the "deal" was "real" -- whether he really lived there, and concluded he was not there enough of the time (whatever that means). A settlement was reached where, as I understand it, the Wrotens agreed to live up to the substance of the arrangement, if he wanted to stay enrolled at GHS.

I am not saying it is ok for parents and families to "game" the system by being less than honest about where they live. But, it has never been illegal to rent an apartment or house to gain access to better schools. I grew up with kids whose parents had moved out of state, and left their children behind, living with friends, so as not to disrupt their educations. And particularly here -- where he has ALWAYS gone to Seattle schools, I see no "shame" in his having a seat at Garfield. Given that he is an attendance area kid, and they are taking all comers, his presence there does not deny anyone else a seat.
prepared for the backlash said…
First, congratulations to the National Merit Scholars!

Anyonymous said, "Maybe the 'district' should reopen the case of where Tony Wroten really lives; Renton."

When/if they should do that, they should also investigate the students whose families live on the Eastside, yet whose parents can afford a second home/or rent an apartment in the Garfield attendance area that are not athletes but seek the educational opportunities at Garfield (Marine Biology and the trips, just to name one).

The student should have known better sure, but the adult(s) who were the enablers are far worst! And the fact that an Athletic Director (nice guy or not) would sign off on giving a bogus grade for doing next to no work should have been fired.

While people want to blame the principal, I'd like to hear how the princpal is supposed to monitor EVERY adult who makes decisions such as the Athletic Director did in a building. While they might try to, then people would say they were micromanaging.

There are schools with princpals who themselves are corrupt in Seattle. Garfield is not one of them.
Anonymous said…
Backlash - I agree, the adults should be held accountable without a doubt. I am not vouching for the AD because he is a nice guy (although he has strong character) but because the accusations simply aren't true as stated. I was not there so I can't prove it, however I know the circumstances have been misconstrued. Some of the pieces are there and there is some truth but they have been put together in a way that is completely misrepresenting the whole story. In the end I will hope justsice prevails and the AD is cleared.

Zebra (or Zulu) said…
Subs work at minimum one-half day. So how much did we spend in one year for these three athletes to get into college sports programs. I am figuring about $13,500 - $15,000 (more if the subs are full time - benefits!).

Who is in charge of our public servants? Is there ANY supervision downtown or are we pi**ing away supervision money on academic "coaches."


If the public really knew what goes on in this district, levies would fail like pachinko spheres falling into the center column.

Angry Citizen Zulu
GreyWatch said…
Charlie - as a parent, I dislike the proliferation of elite club sports. I think its a good fit for some kids. However, it's cost prohibitive for many families, the time and travel demands are crazy (imho), and the never ending seasons mean kids often have to choose one sport over the other.

But honestly, I think its the fancy uniforms and gear that I can't stomach for some reason. Seeing 10 year old kids dressed up like players from the European Football (soccer) League with fancy bags, jackets and a different outfit for every scrimmage or match just doesn't sit well with me.

Just me perhaps, but seems so excessive on every level.
Anonymous said…
the principal is solely in charge of the master schedule. while staff may have in put, only the principal approves it. no one can just put a class into the system. the registrar does it.

-still fishy
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said…
Greywatch is right about the prohibitive costs of club/select sports. My son plays on a select baseball team, and the cost is $2200 per season. Per season! Not including gear, and travel expenses which total another $1000 or so per season. Though the sports club is a non profit they do NOT offer scholarships. Not one single low income family on our team. How could there be without scholarships?

Compare that to our local HS school baseball team, which cost $50 - $75 per player, per season, including yellow bus transportation to all away games. And there are scholarships for all who need it.

The schools that my kids attend have both JV and V teams. The JV teams are all no cut, and less competitive, so there is something for everyone. Many parents I know REQUIRE their kids to play a sport, to keep them busy after school, so they are not just hanging out. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of kids that play HS sports have absolutely no intention of playing at the college or pro level after HS at all. They are playing because they like competition, for the social experience, for exorcise, or because a parent requires them to.

And to make the argument that we need to eliminate sports and focus on academics, well then I guess we'd also have to think about cutting school plays, musicals, band concerts, after school clubs, PE, and community service too. How would that look?

If there is a bad apple coach, address his/her behavior, and remove them when necessary - but don't penalize the kids. In this time of an obesity and diabetes epidemic, we should be absolutely ecstatic that we still have PE and sports in our district.
make it an either or:
Either remove the offending coach/adminstrator and incur no sanctions
incur sanctions.

-best for kids
Anonymous said…
As someone who personally witnessed the sham class the Sub genuinely tried to instruct the thee boys they had zero to no interest. There were many teachers who also had to provide an alternative lesson plan for the same boys.

The Athletic Director has no authority to hire a Sub,devise a class schedule that comes from the instruction of the Principal alone.

There are many teachers teaching on carts or running between rooms all day in Garfield. Very few rooms are vacant at any time so the need for part time subs to take some of the class loads is valid and this particular sub did teach 2 other classes.

The Principal, Ted Howard, has the ultimate and final decision on how to manage the class schedules and curriculum.
Anonymous said…
"Seeing 10 year old kids dressed up like players from the European Football (soccer) League with fancy bags, jackets and a different outfit for every scrimmage or match just doesn't sit well with me. "

You prefer having a principal of an SPS school spend money on a sub, to teach 3 boys on their own, so that SPS can field a state champion basketball team?

I'm not advocating for getting rid of HS sports; just for treating it like classes, and not subsidized elite sports in a school setting.

Jan said…
I don't know enough to defend or condemn anybody here -- but I thought they didn't hire a sub. I thought that the AD was the teacher of the class (since he was a certificated teacher with a spanish endorsement). Am I missing something?
GreyWatch said…
zb - i don't think one has to do with the other, so I'm not sure how you made the leap that I would prefer one to the other.

i was responding to charlie's question about whether school sports should go away and let club or elite sports take over. i made no comment on the scandal at garfield, or on school sports for that matter.

Now that you brought it up, however, I think, both scenarios are elitist and not in the best interest of the kids.

And to directly answer Charlie's question, club sports (at least as I've seen them played) would not be an appropriate replacement for sports in middle or high school.
Really? Sports are the same as drama or music? No, I don't think so. Music and drama have more to do with academics than sports.

Sports, with the costs, the time, the need to constantly pour money into the fields (that's one thing that ALWAYS gets done on BTA), are a very different animal than other after school activities.

Also, community service is a graduation requirement.
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Athletic supporter (no pun intended) said…
Not sure why people don't think the "ATHLETIC DIRECTOR" should not have done what he did nor is suspect since he knew the star athlete SINCE HE WAS IN SECOND GRADE (he said that)!!! Is it not the ATHLETIC DIRECTOR's (ADs) main responsibility to "direct" student athletes to do the right thing? Be it academics, not using drugs, etc. That maybe wishful thinking but that is what "good" vs. "nice" ADs do.

SPS is lax on many athletic policies. With a number of High schools having had issues with their athletic programs RB, FHS, Sealth, in addition to FHS. FHS had the largest grade changing scandal yet principal Wiley remained.

SPS needs to implement stronger policies for athletes regarding academics and drug and alcohol use and enforce them no holds barred.
anonymous said…
"Really? Sports are the same as drama or music?"

Yup, very much so, to some kids.
Jet City mom said…
Really? Sports are the same as drama or music?"

Yup, very much so, to some kids.

I would agree.

They all involve team effort- practice & talent.
One is not more academic in nature- despite perception of "high-brow- vs low-brow".

Our state also requires PE credits for graduation- not so music or drama.
Anonymous said…
You've got to be kidding. You don't see a parallel between sports and music? As a former musician, I can tell you they are similar on many levels. They both require sophisticated teamwork and collaboration, a skill that everyone needs to learn. They both require problem solving and dedication. They both require practice. And, both have similar professional opportunities. Playing for the Seattle Mariners is about the same level of competitiveness as playing in the Seattle Symphony. If anything, I would say the sports opportunities in high school are MORE important than the musical ones (and I say this as a musician) because of the emphasis on fitness, and higher level of teamwork required.

Anonymous said…
Sounds like the same thing that happened at Chief Sealth, hey wait a minute....the former coach charged with illegal recruiting was transfered to ...wait a minute..GARFIELD, as a counselor. Hmmmmmmm...another strange SPS coincidence?????????

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