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If adults don't value academics over sports, can we expect students to do so?

A challenge in getting students to prioritize academic achievement is that many adults don't -- even adults who'd agree the main mission of schools is to produce kids who can think.

In truth, many people are more interested in schools producing teams that can win. Today yielded several examples.

On Facebook, people rushed to the defense of winning Mays High School football coach Corey Jarvis, who, according to an investigation by Atlanta Public Schools, cannot account for more than $10,000 in team funds, including more than $6,000 in football receipts recorded by Jarvis that were unable to be traced and more than $4,000 collected by him.

The AJC's Molly Bloom also reported:

The investigation found that in one case, Jarvis told the Mays football booster club president, who had questioned how Jarvis handled football funds, “If you’re so unhappy, why don’t you take your kids and go somewhere else.” In another case, Jarvis appeared to challenge a school volunteer who had criticized him, walking up to him on the school’s campus and telling him “Next time I see you it’s not going to be on school grounds.” In both cases, school staff physically restrained Jarvis.

Commenters contend APS is being unfair to Jarvis, who they see as a modern-day Robin Hood. Among the defenses offered:

•"I still don't see missing money. I see bad bookkeeping, which he admitted to."

•"He probably helped pay some utility bills with it... what's the average income of a Mays football player's family?" 

•"I believe a football coach must be tough in his teaching. Ten grand missing? Much ado about nothing from what I see. A coach is a leader of young men, not an accountant."

Then, I read a story in The New York Times that voters in McKinney, Texas, endorsed a nearly $63 million high school football stadium. Apparently, there is an arms race in Texas to build the bigger, better stadium.

The Dallas News reports:

 Besides football, they say the stadium would be used for soccer games and band competitions, and the events center for banquets and reunions. The stadium could also be a contender for playoff games and Drum Corps International competitions.

But McKinney Independent School District would compete for those events with neighboring districts. McKinney’s stadium site is roughly four miles north of Allen ISD’s mammoth $60 million stadium with 18,000 seats. Plano ISD opened Tom Kimbrough Stadium in 2004 with 9,800 seats. Frisco ISD is contributing $30 million for a new indoor stadium that includes a 57-foot-wide video screen and space to seat 12,000 at the Dallas Cowboys development.

Finally, Decatur High School spent a fruitless day trying to reschedule the state AAA championship boys soccer game with East Hall High slated for tomorrow at 2:30 in the afternoon in Macon -- timing that will cause five seniors to miss a critical International Baccalaureate exam. Other players will miss an AP Stat exam, but there's a makeup for that test.

The global IB program doesn't offer makeups. If the students, who have been working toward their IB diplomas for two years, miss the 12:30  p.m. exam Thursday, they are out of luck. (They can graduate with a standard diploma that does not carry the prestige or reflect the added demands of the IB diploma, and, if they choose, come back from college and take the 2.5 hour test at the high school in May of 2017.) Decatur High's IB coordinators are trying to win approval from IB to start the exam at noon so the soccer players can sit for about an hour of the test before they have to dash to catch the bus to Macon.

In a news story on, Decatur Superintendent David Dude told AJC reporter Bill Banks, “It puts the kids in terrible position. You either take the entire test and miss your championship game, or you play and skip the test. Or you take the test in half the time normally allotted and barely make it to the game. They have prepared years for both of these events and being forced into such a decision by the inflexibility of GHSA and IB is unacceptable.”

My kids don't play soccer, but I am puzzled why any high school championship game would be scheduled in Macon on a school day in the midst of the most intense testing week of the year.

How many working parents from Decatur or Hall can leave work in the middle of the day to drive to Macon? Would the Georgia High School Association schedule a state high school football or basketball championship final at 2:30 p.m. on a Thursday during the most critical testing period of the entire school year? (More and more high schools in Georgia are becoming IB schools, so I believe the intractability of IB testing has to be considered in the future.)

Some players have already told the AJC they would miss the test for the game, but why do they have to make that choice?

What's wrong with the adults organizing these athletic contests that they don't consider the testing schedules of high school students?


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.