Standards Absent As Well?

It was heartening to see that Pinellas County relented and reinstated popular but chastened Principal John Nicely of Tarpon Springs High School. However, it’s only for the remainder of the year.

Then Nicely will be transferred to supervisor of work force development, which doesn’t sound like the best posting for a well-regarded, hands-on high school principal with a reputation for being as caring as he is competent. He is, by all accounts — including an outpouring of sentiment at a school board meeting — precisely the sort of principal schools can’t get enough of.

Nicely’s controversial reassignment had been prompted by a grade-changing incident. He reportedly changed a student’s “F,” incurred because of attendance problems, to “A,” thus enabling the student to apply for a scholarship. Nicely had acknowledged the procedural mistake.

There are, however, bigger issues afoot here than knee-jerk punishment for a well-intentioned error in judgment.

Pinellas County’s attendance policy says a student can’t pass a class with 10 or more absences, excused or not, in a nine-week period. Recovering from the flu is not appreciably different than answering the siren song of the mall.

In the interest of motivation, Nicely apparently cut a deal with good students with bad attendance. If the six seniors had no more unexcused absences the remainder of the school year, their final grades would reflect what they otherwise would have earned. One of those six had asked Nicely to send along the amended passing grades to colleges. Hence, the ensuing flap.

But here’s a begged question. What sort of curriculum and what sort of standards are in effect such that a student with inordinate absences can legitimately “earn” a quite acceptable, even outstanding, grade if only the arbitrary attendance policy is waived? Shouldn’t sheer lack of attendance ensure academic adversity? If not, then maybe there isn’t such a pressing need to attend the class in question, after all.

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