By Jordan Cohen
The school board heard a charge that the grading scale used by the district has placed its high school students at an “unfair disadvantage” because it is “the highest and most-difficult grading scale” in Trumbull and Mahoning counties.
“Our students will receive less college scholarships than neighboring communities,” said Renee Ifft, a Niles resident who taught in the district for 10 years and now teaches in McDonald.
Ifft said at Thursday night’s school board meeting that she knew of one student who lost a scholarship because of the higher scale, and that “Niles students oftentimes feel compelled to take the lower-level classes in order to attain the higher grade.”
Ifft provided extensive figures showing, for example, that a score of 93, which amounts to a grade-point average of 3.5 in Niles would earn students at John F. Kennedy and Liberty a 3.7 GPA and a 4.0 GPA at Lordstown.
Ifft said the lower GPAs, despite the higher scores, mean that fewer Niles students can qualify for college courses while in high school and may contribute to lowering their self-esteem.
She said the system was initiated two years ago to help reduce the number of valedictorians.
Mark Lucas, assistant McKinley High School principal, indicated the administration is taking the complaints seriously.
Lucas said that Scott Libert, the high school principal, is preparing a presentation “in the near future” to examine the statistics and see if the system should be changed. Libert did not attend the board meeting and was unavailable to comment.
In other action, the board approved a contract that will pay $1.74 million to Jackson and Sons Drilling, Mansfield, for drilling geothermal wells that will provide heating and cooling for the two new elementary schools and high school to be constructed within the next two years.
One of those drilling sites is on the football practice field, which drew the ire of Brad Yeager, high school football coach, who was concerned that his players will have to be taken by bus to the middle school for practice.
The board also voted 3-2 to lower the pay rate for substitute teachers next year from $85 per day to $70, a figure that board dissenters Traci Buttar and Richard Limongi said was too low.
Superintendent Rocco Adduci said that Niles’ previous figure was the highest for substitute teachers in Trumbull County.