A comment from a parent in November tipped off Arlington's acting athletic director that eligibility matters were amiss and led to the forfeiture of dozens of games in 2011-12, the School Committee was told Thursday, Dec. 20.
Rob DiLoreto, the former athletic director who is serving while Edward "Ted" Dever is on paid leave because of an unspecified investigation, said the parent comment came about Nov. 10, when he was checking grades.
DiLoreto said he heard the comment after telling parents that several students had not made the grades to continue participating in fall sports.
One parent mentioned that a child had poor grades last year yet was allowed to play sports, DiLoreto said.
A check of the student's record confirmed the parent was correct, he said, and he informed the administration.
Superintendent Kathleen Bodie told him next day to check the eligibility of all students on sports teams for the last school year. Those checks led to what an official with the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association has called an unprecedented number of forfeitures of athletics.
The forfeitures were announced this month. Dever was put on paid administrative leave last Aug. 27. The Winchester resident has not been charged.
Richard Grundy of Boston, Dever's attorney, criticized the school district's intention to dismiss him for performance-related reasons, unrelated to the investigation.
Public may speaks, but only so far
Difficulties about discussing the issue became clear during public participation. A number of residents addressed the forfeitures, but the committee chairwoman, Kirsi Allison-Ampe made clear she did not want public discussion of Dever.
Frank Callahan, who said he is a lifelong town resident, sounded a theme addressed by others -- that MIAA rules place the responsibility for determining eligibility with the school principal (see PART VI: Penalties Section 84, 84.1 & 84.2).
The Globe reported last week that principals often delegate this duty, and the acting principal, Mary Villano, says she did.
Callahan then veered from discussing rules to talking about Dever, the athletics director since 2007, and Allison-Ampe asked him to stop.
Callahan said he works in labor relations and, as a member of the public, had a right to speak.
She again asked him to stop. When he did not, she asked a board member to remove the microphone.
After no one responded, she asked Paul Schlichtman. He walked over and began to move the microphone away from Callahan, who then got up and went back to his seat in the audience. (The board's right to control the meeting is based on this provision of the Open Meeting Law.)
Some applause erupted, perhaps for Callahan, because the majority of those who signed up for public participation addressed the forfeiture issue.
Several Arlington High School graduates from the class of 2008 also spoke on Dever's behalf but did so indirectly.
Questions and comments from School Committee members addressed how administrators are trying to make sure that athletes playing sports are eligible.
Steps to move ahead
DiLoreto said school officials are exploring whether producing a list of students who have received a failing grade in a course that can be sent to all teachers, guidance counselors and coaches that will help keep checks on student eligibility to play sports.
Bodie said that school officials will have a checks and balances protocol in place by the end of the second term for checking student eligibility. The term is wrapping up in the couple of weeks. Bodie said athletic eligibility has been checked for the fall term, and no issues were found.
Bodie praised DiLoreto for having the integrity to follow through on the issue and report what had occurred even though the news would disappoint many.
Among suggestions, committee members made:
-- Paul Schlichtman said that in Lowell, where he is an administrator, the schools use a PowerSchool program that tracks these matters via computer (Arlington uses PowerSchool for grades and other issues). He suggested that Arlington should check with other PowerSchool districts in the state to see whether they have a report to do the MIAA list, or work with them to get a customized report from the vendor.
-- Leba Heigham wondered whether parent training about eligibility rules and related issues might be instituted.
-- Bill Hayner said that when he taught in Chelmsford, some coaches would reach out to teachers for head's-ups about students whose grades may be weak.
-- Allison-Ampe said she would like to think that, in addition to parents and others, students themselves were also keeping track of whether their grades might make them ineligible.
This story was published Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, and updated the next day.