The Alexandria School Board approached a compromise with athletic coaches last night by offering fresh options on a proposal that would bench athletes who earned less than a C average.
Over the last few weeks a dozen coaches have denounced the proposal, which would require athletes to have a C average in the semester before the playing season and during the season, saying it "punishes students for last semester" and ignores the fact that sports motivates many students academically.
In response, Lynnwood Campbell, the school board member who introduced the original proposal, offered two new options last night. One would allow students who earned a D average the previous semester to play, provided they achieve a C average during the playing season. The other would enable students who earned a D average during the sports season to continue playing if they had earned a C average the previous semester.
"At least they're talking compromise now," said Don Riviere, athletic director at T.C. Williams High School, the city's only high school. He strongly opposes the original proposal and said it discriminates against students with lesser learning ability.
"If I thought for one minute that every student who tried to could achieve a C average, I would overwhelmingly support this proposal. I don't," Riviere said.
Pam Walkup, president of the Education Association of Alexandria, which claims a membership of 90 percent of the city's teachers, agreed with Riviere and said she hoped the board would make allowances for "diligent D students. The reality is," she said, "a certain percentage of students working up to their potential fall into the D category."
Last semester 152 of Alexandria's high school athletes -- almost 20 percent of them -- ended the year with a passing D average.
Bob Adkins, T.C. Williams women's track coach, said he feared some of these students would be driven to other school districts. "If we had a C-average rule here and Fairfax or D.C. didn't, the athletes are going to be driven away. I'm totally against it."
Four board members, including Chairman Lou Cook, support the C-average rule as originally proposed, and the others have reserved comment until the vote on Nov. 14. Coach Riviere said he hopes the proposal will be tabled for at least a year.