Arlington’s acting athletic director Robert DiLoreto told the School Committee Thursday that a comment made by a parent in November was his first clue that ineligible students were allowed to play sports at Arlington High School last year.
Appearing at the committee’s meeting to discuss an unprecedented number of athletic game forfeitures for the 2011-2012 school year that were announced last week, DiLoreto said the problem first came to his attention in mid November when first-term grades came out.
DiLoreto said he discovered several students had not made the grades to continue participating in fall sports, and he notified their parents.
“One parent responded to me and mentioned that her child had poor grades last year, but was permitted to play sports,” DiLoreto said.
DiLoreto said he checked the student’s records and realized the parent was correct. He relayed the information to Arlington High School Principal Mary Villano and was instructed the next day by Superintendent of Schools Kathleen Bodie to check the eligibility of all students on sport teams for the last school year.
What DiLoreto found led to the school district’s announcement last week that ineligible players participated on 12 different teams during the 2011-2012 school year. As a result eight teams had to forfeit games. Four teams, including the fall 2011 varsity and junior varsity boys soccer teams, the spring 2012 boys varsity tennis team, and the spring girls junior varsity softball team, had to forfeit all of their wins for their season.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association said the number of forfeitures was unprecedented, and praised DiLoreto’s efforts to address them.
The forfeitures were announced after the school district’s athletic director Ted Dever had already been placed on paid administrative leave in August for an ongoing criminal investigation, the details of which have not been made public. Last week Dever, through his attorney Rick Grundy, criticized the school district’s intention to dismiss him for performance-related reasons, unrelated to the criminal investigation, that the athletic director claims are unfounded.
Grundy also said school administrators never raised the eligibility issues with Dever at hearing on Dec. 4 to discuss Bodie’s intention to fire the athletic director.
Arlington resident Frank Callahan raised concerns with the School Committee Thursday about the forfeitures only being announced after Dever began fighting to get back on the job.
But School Committee Chairwoman Kirsi Allison-Ampe said officials were not allowed to discuss personnel issues at the meeting and asked Callahan to stop talking about Dever. When he continued, she struck her gavel and asked someone to take the microphone away from Callahan.
Several Arlington High School graduates from the class of 2008 also attended the meeting to speak on Dever’s behalf, but were asked not to discuss the athletic director.
When School Committee member Judson Pierce asked if there was any evidence that student eligibility to participate in sports was being checked last year, Allison-Ampe also halted that line of questioning.
School Committee members instead focused on what administrators are doing to ensure that going forward there will not be an issue with ineligible athletes playing sports.
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, and Bodie said athletic eligibility has already been checked for the first term of the current school year.
Brock Parker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org