Board votes to allow 13/14-year-olds to play on varsity teams

by Pamela McRae, Managing Editor
Posted 2/22/23

The Tishomingo County School Board met last Thursday and approved a policy that would allow elite junior high athletes to “play up” with the high school varsity teams at Belmont or …

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Board votes to allow 13/14-year-olds to play on varsity teams


The Tishomingo County School Board met last Thursday and approved a policy that would allow elite junior high athletes to “play up” with the high school varsity teams at Belmont or Tishomingo County High School.
As described in the meeting, the policy would be used rarely, when a player of such ability comes along and requests to be allowed to play with the varsity high school team, as is apparently the case with a player in Iuka and at Belmont, according to the conversation that included TCHS Principal Dax Glover, TCHS Athletic Director Jared Robinson and, via phone, Belmont Principal Guy Gardner. It was indicated in the meeting this would probably be basketball or softball programs impacted by the change. And usually, girls’ programs, though in the current situation, one potential player is a boy.
Under the proposed policy the 8th grader would go straight to varsity teams, should they make the team, skipping junior varsity.
Second District School Board representative Jessica Seaton voiced opposition to the policy, which could impact smaller schools like Burnsville and Tishomingo, as they sometimes struggle to field five basketball players for a seventh or eighth-grade team. The policy seems to read that if this is an issue, the player would not be allowed to move up.
Apparently, this practice is allowed in other districts, and by MHSAA.
In the current situation, conversation in the meeting indicated that one of the players requesting to move up has threatened to transfer to another district if the local school doesn’t allow it.
All the board members but Seaton voted to approve the policy, saying they would just have to trust the coaches and principals involved to make the best decision on a case-by-case basis.
Construction updates
The board voted to reject a low bid of about $517,000 to rebuild the concession stand/bathroom building between the baseball and softball fields at Tishomingo County High School.
Seaton questioned the high cost per foot of the concrete block building, though all agreed the bathrooms are in dire need of replacement and are a poor reflection on the school for visiting teams. After much conversation, the board supported TCSD Maintenance Director Matthew Walker proposal that they do the work in-house instead, and “put a band-aid” on the bathroom issue by tearing out partitions and replacing toilets to allow them to be handicapped accessible for the 2023 season currently getting started.
On the consent agenda, which all the board members voted to approve, two of the school’s maintenance team gave notice of their resignations.
The board talked to an architect on the state of roofs on buildings throughout the district, and inspections are ongoing, with Walker in the loop.
Library books
Board president Stacy Stepp brought up a discussion on library books in the schools, and they reviewed submissions from three librarians discussing how they determine what books students are allowed to read. The concern might be related to Tennessee’s new law that requires every book in school libraries, and even in teachers’ classrooms to be inventoried and listed online for parents to be able to review and file complaints about if they feel the books are not age appropriate.
Superintendent Christy Holly said it is the board’s job to set policy, and whatever policy they determine, the administration will enforce.
“Where do you draw the line, is the question? Who determines that?” she said.
Stepp said they just need to have a policy in place on what school money should and should not be spent on, “before it gets out of hand.”
They tasked board attorney Nathaniel Clark to propose a policy for review.
Stepp also asked the administration to come up with a policy that would keep the “traditional” set up of homecoming courts – “with a girl being homecoming queen, escorted by a boy.”
Coaching supplements
There was discussion of the district’s compensation and supplements for coaches and assistant coaches. First District Board Member Michael Puckett said they just want to be sure they are doing the equitable thing, regarding number of days and supplements for coaches and assistants who often work during summer workouts, and over and above their allotted paid days. Puckett said he want to be sure we are in line with what other districts are paying, so as not to lose valuable coaches.
Bullying cases
Holly reported that utilizing the StopIt app, four cases of bullying in the district had been reported; Iuka Elementary, Burnsville and Tishomingo had reports.
New position: IES assistant principal
The board approved a new position: an assistant principal at Iuka Elementary School. Holly said the 400-student school had never had an assistant principal, and that when the principal is away, the responsibilities fall on the school counselor. She said administration would like a person with an administrative degree handle those responsibilities.