Clyde Savannah High School Principal Dr. Craig Palwak said he increased the requirements last week for student eligibility to park on school grounds because he hopes to convey that the district has a “culture of high expectations.”
But the decision has many parents and students in this rural district –where some students drive to school so they will have their cars available to go to work afterward – upset. They say being the only school in Wayne County that ties parking privileges to GPAs isn’t going to make smarter students and it discriminates against those who are good kids, but may not be academic honor roll material.
They say requiring children to be on the honor roll for parking privileges – a higher standard than what’s required to participate in school sports – is unfair, unnecessary and judgmental.
Several Clyde-Savannah Board of Education members did not know Pawlak made the change until they started getting phone calls from parents. The parents told them they would attend the next school board meeting on December 12th at 7 p.m. in the board room at the high school and bring up the matter.
“The board deals with things as they are brought to us,” said Patrick Crowe, who is the board president. He said he has not yet discussed the matter with Pawlak or District Superintendent Dr. Theresa Pulos.
Students must now have an 85 percent GPA (up from an 80 in the agreement that students, parents and district administrators signed at the beginning of the school year). Pawlak said the district has had a parking policy in place “as long as I can remember,” and it has also been linked to a limited number of tardies and appropriate driving behavior.
Palwak, did not need board permission to change the policy; the agreement signed at the beginning of the year pointed out that parking was at the discretion of the principal.
But why the change?
Palwak cited research that shows that “the strong relationship between expectations and academic achievement has been well established both theoretically and empirically.”
“When I met with the seniors in September, I informed them that I would adhere to the 80%+ and grandfather them in since we base September parking privileges on their final average from the previous school year,” Palwak stated in an email to the Times. “I also explained to the students that I would raise the standards and expectations to an 85%+ (meaning that students would need an 85%+ at the end of the first quarter) in order to continue parking privileges.”
He said he also “provided the students with the rationale that NYS has indicated that students need to achieve higher GPA’s to be considered college and career ready and that the 85%+ would align with what is required for students to be on our honor roll.”
The change in the policy went into effect after the first quarter. It affects 12 students: two juniors and 10 seniors. Palwak said he did agree to review the students’ grades at five weeks instead of 10 to determine if they have regained eligibility.
Judy Abbott, the mother of one of the students who can no longer park on school grounds because his average for the past quarter reached just less than an 82, doesn’t agree with the policy. Her son goes to BOCES, plays sports and maintains his eligibility. She sees no reason to use parking privileges, at a higher standard, as a way to motivate students, many of whom are doing the best they can with all the other challenges going on in their lives. She also looks at it as a safety issue. The Abbotts live far outside the Village of Clyde and she does not want her son hunting for a legal parking space near the school and then having to walk back and forth.
She said it is not reasonable to take parking away from students solely based on academic performance, and in the case of children who work to contribute to their family’s income, it might create a hardship.
No other school district in Wayne County bases student parking privileges on a particular GPA. Instead, most of the districts use “student in good standing,” and some, like Gananda and Sodus, simply require parental permission and registration. In North Rose-Wolcott, an administrator said he wished that the school had enough students to worry about a parking policy.
There are, in fact, fewer students at Clyde-Savannah High School than at NR-W and Pawak did not cite limited parking as an issue in his email to the Times.
He did say he knew that it worked for at least one student, who made honor roll for the first time ever so she could park in the parking lot.
“She came to me and said ‘I made honor for the first time in my life and I get to park in the parking lot.’ By raising the bar/standards to an 85%+ and aligning this with our honor roll criteria the parking issue served as a motivating factor and the student achieved.”