Title IX raises questions for Oroville School Board

OROVILLE – The fact post season tournaments for boys and girls wrestling are held at two different locations raised the question of whether a volunteer coach could stand in the corner for the girls and still meet federal Title IX requirements.

This question arose after Oroville School District Superintendent Steve Quick said he reviewed Title IX requirements and the issue raised a “red flag.” He determined that sending a volunteer coach, rather than either head coach Chuck Ricevuto or assistant coach Rick Kelly to represent the girls, might be construed as unequal treatment for the girl wrestlers and could put the district in jeopardy of losing federal funding.

This is just the second year the two tournaments were held the same day, but at different locations – boys in Coulee Dam and girls in Spokane. Last year Eric Cleveland, a volunteer wrestling coach who has worked with the girls team, went as coach for the girls. Quick, along with athletic director Brett Fancher, were asked by the Oroville School Board to come up with an administrative solution. They decided either Ricevuto or Kelly would have to go with the girls this year to stay within the regulations.

At the Monday, Jan. 30 Oroville School Board, Anne Marie Ricevuto, Coach Ricevuto’s wife, said the coaches could not attend the board meeting because they were at Lake Roosevelt to determine seeding at the upcoming wrestling tournament. She explained that Cleveland and his wife accompanied the girls to the tournament last year and asked if there wasn’t some way to approve this arrangement again this year. She said Kelly wanted to be at the boys tournament because his son was a senior and this would be his last year wrestling at Oroville and Ricevuto had been coaching the boys since they were in second grade.

“This year it seems we have to send a paid coach, I don’t know why that changed. Chuck (Ricevuto) took a poll and found out most districts send a volunteer coach with their wife. We decided to come to the board and ask that they recognize Eric as an approved volunteer to take the girls to district this Saturday and to take them to regionals next Saturday. He does have a lot of experience as a coach,” Ricevuto said.

“I asked Mr. Quick for an administrative solution,” said Phil Barker, chairman of the school board.

Supt. Quick replied, “It is a question of equity, not anything against Eric. We want to make sure the girls have the same equal treatment. I realized as the district’s Title IX officer I’d be uncomfortable sending two paid coaches for the boys and none for the girls.

“I just think this is the right thing from a legal perspective and also it is not for the board to step in and micromanage.”

Barker asked the board’s opinion on whether the issue should be further discussed in executive session and learned it didn’t fit the criteria required for a closed-door discussion. After some further discussion in open meeting the board let the superintendent and athletic director’s decision to require one paid coach at each tournament stand.

(Update: Kelly went with the girls team and Ricevuto went with the boys team to the separate district tournaments.)

Under “Good News and Announcements” Chairman Barker said the state Supreme Court Ruling in favor of the schools meant the legislature can no longer cut funding to schools and in fact must increase it over the next five years.

Supt. Quick reported on the facilities and said he had a “to do” checklist from Steve Thompson, head of maintenance, and Thompson sends a report every time something is checked off the list.

“Another good thing is the levy committee met and created the brochures and there are support ads in the newspaper,” said Quick (see this week’s Letters to the Editor for a letter from Quick).

The superintendent also reported that English teacher Michelle Fancher and paraprofessional Dennis Curdie were selected by school district staff as this year’s winners of the Excellence in Education award from the district. They and other recipients from around the region will be honored with a banquet on Tuesday, March 20 at Tonasket High School.

In her principal’s report, elementary school principal Joan Hoehn said January had been National Mentors Month and the HOSTS (Help One Student To Succeed) Program had over 650 volunteer hours logged mentoring reading and math students. She also said that the Principal’s Challenge, where students are challenged to read as many books as they can, will begin soon.

“We’re working on a bucket costume for me to wear if they meet the challenge,” Hoehn said.

The principal said the students were also collecting the tabs off soda cans for Ronald McDonald House and that the second-graders were making hearts to hang at the gazebo in Centennial Park for Valentines Day.

In her report, high school principal Kristin Sarmiento said the “Ds” and “Fs” list had been cut in half.

“That’s good, we want it to keep going down and enforcement allows more people to attend dances and athletic events. It also reinforces the idea that it’s a lot easier to keep grades up and not get into a hole.”

Sarmiento said the high school is looking at funding resources to put together a Challenge Day for next year.

“It’s quite expensive, but amazing. We’d really like to address issues like bullying in a big way,” she said.

Both Sarmiento and Hoehn reported that report cards had gone out the previous Friday and remarked about the success of the Martin Luther King Day assembly held at the high school.