Girls tennis state title recognition issue goes before the School Board

A situation involving the Philomath High School girls tennis team’s perceived lack of local administrative recognition as a state champion found its way onto the Philomath School Board’s meeting agenda on Monday night.

Early in the meeting during public comments, recent graduate Chloe Jurva spoke to the board about high school administrators not recognizing the girls tennis team’s 4A showcase title that it shared this spring with Marist Catholic as a state championship. Jurva, who played on the team, said more than 600 people signed a petition for a state championship banner to be displayed in the PHS gym alongside previous state champions.

The Oregon School Activities Association opted to not hold official state championship events during the 2020-21 pandemic-plagued school year. Instead, the schools themselves could choose to organize tournaments or meets to be staged during the final week. In tennis and most other sports in Class 4A, the showcase events have been organized.

“It’s true, OSAA didn’t sponsor this year’s competition and that did make it abnormal from previous years,” Jurva said. “But wasn’t this entire COVID year abnormal? We entered into a bracket and our girls’ team placed first. And this competition was the highest level in 4A given this year.”

Tony Matta, PHS athletic director, said the girls tennis team was recognized for its regional championship and the state showcase championship during a May 26 assembly outside at Clemens Field. Banners hang in the gym for various sports teams that have won regional or district championships. With the girls winning their first regional title this spring, a banner for that sport will be displayed. Future regional titles will then be added to that same banner.

Matta said Class 4A schools are appealing to the OSAA executive board at its July meeting to ask that winners of the showcase events be recognized as state champions.

“If we can get them to say, yeah, we’re going to recognize those showcase champions as state champions, that really takes care of it in my mind for everything except football,” Matta said, who added that football had an entirely different approach to culminating week and did not fit into the showcase model.

“They ultimately are the organization in charge of putting on championship events and crowning state champions,” Matta said about the OSAA.

Chair Shelley Niemann expressed interest in supporting the OSAA executive board appeal cause with a letter from the School Board.

“I’d like to do whatever we can do to support that effort,” Niemann said.

However, if the OSAA appeal is denied, Niemann wanted to know if something could be done at the local level to make sure those teams and athletes are appropriately honored.

“It just seems like there’s a way that we could still recognize them with a state championship banner whether it be a banner of a different version or say something slightly different, I’m not sure, but it would be very much appreciated if that was looked into and receive feedback from the athletes and the coaches on how we could follow through with that,” Niemann told Matta, who responded “absolutely.”

In addition to the banner issue, Jurva in her comments alleged that administrators’ actions show that boys’ athletic accomplishments are lauded more than those by the girls with an emphasis on football, baseball and boys basketball.

PHS tennis coach Gary Quandt said that from his perspective — he coaches both the boys and girls teams — he has not seen any lack of support from administration for either squad.

“Obviously I’m not on staff so I don’t see the day-to-day interactions, all I know is what I see when I show up on the court,” he said.

Jurva also during her talk gave examples of sacrifices that are made academically to be able to participate in sports and questioned if it was all worth it.

“When I’m not recognized for the accomplishments my team and I made, I have to question what the point was of even trying to begin with,” she said. “I missed many important lessons and days of work, plus had a lot of academic stress in that last month of school and if we don’t get a banner, that was all for nothing.”

Quandt didn’t speak directly to the banner issue but did acknowledge the showcase co-title as the “first state championship we’ve had” in girls tennis.

Quandt took the opportunity of appearing before the board to push for the integration of tennis in the physical education curriculum at the middle school and high school levels with the new courts now on campus. He also mentioned hopes that tennis will become a summer activity offered through the Philomath Youth Activities Club.

“That’s where I hope it’s headed and I’ll do whatever I can to help push that along,” he said.

In other news out of the June 21 meeting:

• During the public comments portion of the meeting, Niemann read a letter signed by Philomath High School educators recognizing the efforts and positive impacts of school counselor Kim St. Clair.

• Niemann also read a letter written by Izabella Nanoski, team manager for the PHS girls basketball team, regarding the school district’s mask mandate. Nanoski argued that updated protocols should allow vaccinated players to not be forced to wear masks during games. Later during the superintendent’s report, Susan Halliday said face coverings will not be required for vaccinated players or officials on the court at Tuesday night’s home showcase tournament game. However, players on the bench will need to wear masks.

• The board paused its regular meeting to hold a budget hearing. Bill Mancuco, director of finance and operations, reported on the latest information involving funding from the state. Nobody from the public provided testimony.

• Following the budget hearing, the board unanimously approved resolutions to adopt a $41,964,366 budget for 2021-22 and to impose and categorize the tax.

• Halliday reported that the current plan is to open schools this fall with a return to a pre-COVID daily schedule. A backup plan with any possible restrictions will be determined this summer, if needed. Final schedules will be shared by the district and individual schools in early August. Students who wish to remain in online instruction can do so through enrollment in Philomath Academy. Early release days, designed for staff professional learning, will move back to Fridays.

• Clemens Primary and Philomath Elementary principals provided updates and Dan Johnson followed with a report on summer school.

• The superintendent and board members discussed course schedule options. Board member Jim Kildea shared his perspectives on curriculum with an emphasis on areas where he believes there are issues, including shortcomings with math proficiency. Kildea also talked about building investments in electives and programs — such as performing arts and culinary arts — but schedules limit students’ options. No action was taken with the discussion meant to keep the topic at the forefront to address areas of concern.

• The board on a 5-0 vote approved a three-year contract for Halliday through June 2024. The contract pays the superintendent an annual salary of $135,000 for the first year with a 1.5% cost-of-living adjustment for years two and three.

• At the request of Halliday, a series of easement requests from the city of Philomath were tabled. Halliday wanted to collect more specific information.

• The board tabled a request from Kings Valley Charter School to increase its middle school enrollment by 10 students. The matter is expected to be discussed at an upcoming work session.

• The board’s approval of a consent agenda included numerous staffing assignments, most of those involving summer school. Resignations included Emily Thomas (Philomath High art teacher) and Noelle Arnold (Philomath Elementary instructional assistant). New hires included Justin Marshall (PHS math), Jacob Craig (PES physical education), Lexi De Vicq (PES counselor), Bryan Traylor (PES and Blodgett School principal), Cynthia Zerby (PES playground assistant), Nicholas Burnett (CPS-Blodgett PE) and Alex Firth (PHS football coach). Kierstin Rowley, PES playground assistant, will move to an instructional assistant position at Blodgett.

• The board took a pair of votes involving a complaint brought against a school district employee. The matter had been discussed in executive session earlier in the evening. The board opted to not proceed with an investigation and denied the complaint with Niemann as board chair authorized to provide the complainant with a written response, which is the procedure outlined in the board’s policies. The board did not provide any details publicly about the nature of the complaint or who it involved.

• The board approved the second reading of five policies involving language changes.

• The board plans to meet for an in-person work session at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

• It was the final regular meeting for outgoing members Greg Gerding, Kildea and Niemann. New members Joe Dealy, Erin Gudge and Rick Wells will be sworn in at a July 1 meeting.

VOTING RECORD
Following is a list of votes taken by the Philomath School Board at its June 21 meeting:
• To approve Resolution 2021-07 to adopt the budget and make appropriations as presented. Motion: Grube. Seconded: Gerding. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Gerding, Grube, Kildea, Niemann, Skinkis).
• To approve Resolution 2021-08 to impose and categorize the tax as presented. Motion: Skinkis. Seconded: Gerding. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Gerding, Grube, Kildea, Niemann, Skinkis).
• To approve the superintendent’s contract with Susan Halliday as presented. Motion: Kildea. Seconded: Gerding. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Gerding, Grube, Kildea, Niemann, Skinkis).
• To approve a consent agenda that included the May 17 School Board minutes and the May 27 Kings Valley-Philomath joint session minutes, check listing for May and several personnel and staffing adjustments. Motion: Kildea. Seconded: Grube. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Gerding, Grube, Kildea, Niemann, Skinkis).
• To not proceed with a third-party investigation regarding a complaint against a Philomath School District employee. Motion: Skinkis. Seconded: Kildea. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Gerding, Grube, Kildea, Niemann, Skinkis).
• To deny a complaint against a Philomath School District employee and authorize the board chair to provide the complainant with a written response per board policy. Motion: Kildea. Seconded: Gerding. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Gerding, Grube, Kildea, Niemann, Skinkis).
• To approve policies as presented. Motion: Kildea. Seconded: Gerding. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Gerding, Grube, Kildea, Niemann, Skinkis).
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