Board and parent debate: What is graded, and what is extra-curricular?

PUNXSUTAWNEY — When is an activity at Punxsutawney Area High School considered a graded subject, and when is it considered an extra-curricular activity?

That’s the question Cheryl Hollis, mother of Karah L. Hollis, a former PAHS student, asked during the pubic comment portion of the Punxsy school board’s agenda Wednesday.

Hollis said the district was discriminating against her daughter because it would not permit her to choose her avenue of education — in this case, cyber school — and also participate in certain activities within the public school system, such as marching and concert band.

Karah, who would have been a junior at PAHS this year, decided that she wanted to attend a cyber school as a junior instead of continuing her education at PAHS, because she felt, as she wrote in a letter to the board, that other students ridiculed and mocked her for trying hard in her classes. She also wrote that she wanted more challenging subjects than are offered through the district’s cyber school and E-Academy.

In her letter, Karah wrote that she attended the first three days of PAHS band camp, with nothing said to her about not being permitted to be there.

Yet the fourth day, she was called to see Principal David London who, she wrote, told her she would have to leave because she was no longer a student in the Punxsy district.

Superintendent Dr. Keith Wolfe said London told her that students who are no longer enrolled in the Punxsy district are not able to participate in classes that are curricular, or graded. Wolfe also said Hollis presented misinformattion to the board that marching band was not graded.

In her letter to the board, Hollis wrote that band, like art and chorus, are not required classes to graduate, and therefore, should be considered extra-curricular.

Wolfe disagreed, saying band is graded because it is part of concert band, which is part of the curriculum, and students receive a credit for it.

He also said that London informed Karah that there are two extra-curricular music classes — Select Ensemble and Jazz Band, in which she was free to take part. However, Karah was unhappy with those choices, Wolfe said, and she and her mother then met with him at Central Office.

Wolfe said he met with Hollis this past spring and would get back to her regarding marching band.

Wolfe said April 26, he called Hollis and told her after researching district policy and past practice that, in fact, Karah was not eligible to participate in marching band, which is a component of concert band, and open to only district students.

Wolfe said marching band does rehearse during the summer at band camp, but also during the school day as part of concert band, and is a curricular subject.

He also said mid-July, London received a letter from the state Leadership Charter School, which noted that Karah was enrolled there.

Karah reported for band camp, despite the fact she was told in April that she couldn’t participate because it was a curricular graded subject, Wolfe said, adding that she attended anyway, despite what London told her parents.

Wolfe said Karah again reported for the fourth day of band camp, and London then contacted her mother because she was not permitted to participate.

Also in her letter, Hollis wrote that PAHS Band Director Kurt Cessna said he would like to have Karah continue because she was an asset to the band.

Hollis said she didn’t think her daughter could be told to leave school property, which is public.

Hollis made a special request to the board, asking for a special provision to allow Karah to participate in both marching and concert bands, as she said it had already done for other students.

Following the meeting and an executive session, Wolfe said the policy is the policy, and Karah would be unable to participate in marching band this year.

Hollis said the district has made special provisions for other students who were not cyber school students and said she believed her daughter was being discriminated against.

Hollis said if no provision is made for her daughter by the board, she would take the issue to a higher authority.