Repairing that image begins with “improving the schools themselves, which we are working hard on,” Gray said. “There was a time many, many years ago when there were close to 150,000 kids enrolled in DCPS. And now you have about 45,000, so the sheer numbers have reduced. Working to improve those academics conditions will send a message to kids, too.”
Gray said he wanted to add more staff to the athletic office to help better police the league’s rules, chief among them the eligibility of athletes, instead of relying on coaches or administrators to turn in offenders.
Coolidge coach Natalie Randolph prepares her team to play in this week's Turkey Bowl.
Echoing the thoughts of new DCIAA Athletic Director Stephanie Evans, who was introduced last week, Gray said ensuring coaches are properly trained and certified is a priority.
Gray said the DCIAA wants “coaches who realize that their real goal is to be a teacher and are not just teaching the skills of the athletic endeavor but are also teaching the values to these young people. We’ve seen instances where that wasn’t the case. And we’re going to work hard to clean that up.”
The mayor also said he wants a more robust offering of sports, from lacrosse to rugby, at all schools, with an eye for increasing the participation of girls in athletics. He said money could be secured for these ideas by securing donations from foundations and by better marketing existing sports events.
This year’s Turkey Bowl will feature a title sponsor in Safeway, which signed on for a three-year, $150,000 deal, Gray said.
Gray also addressed the competitive imbalance of the DCIAA, noting that it’s an issue that relates directly to the DCPS out-of-boundary policy that allows students to apply to change schools for any reason. The enrollment disparity that results among DCIAA schools creates concerns both in the classroom and on the playing field, Gray said.
“When you have a school that is beating another one at halftime, 40-0, you’ve got a real disparity there,” he said. “And those schools typically don’t have many players, they may have 20, 25 players. And that’s a part of fixing the educational stuff because as you get more kids coming to a particular school, it’s also going to broaden your talent pool of kids that are participating in athletics.”