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It’s no big surprise that the North Lamar Panthers had a disappointing year in football. After finishing second in District 13-3A in 2012 the Panthers went 2-8, including 0-5 in district play during the 2013 season.
Monday night, at the North Lamar school board meeting, some parents voiced their concerns regarding the athletic program.
Head football coach Tommy Felty, the school board, and Superintendent James Dawson had no comments after the accusations.
Wednesday, though, Felty sat down with eParisExtra to address one topic of concern from Monday night.
Coach Felty wanted to address the accusations concerning grades from the students and how the coaching staff handles these situations.
“An education is very important,” Felty said. “Throw out all you want about our record over the course of one year…..that one part about not taking care of kids and not seeing that their education is taken care of and that we don’t care was a totally inaccuracy and that upset quite a few people.”
According to coach Felty, a counselor, his secretary and several coaches look at grades every day. This includes Felty himself as he is very in tune with the grades of each player on his team.
When a student is having problems and is on the bubble of passing or failing, coach Felty and his staff make sure that student gets with the teacher during tutorials to get help.
“[We] visit with the teacher to see where maybe there’s a problem, if they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do, to see if there’s missing grades,” Felty elaborated. “Then [we] work with the student too to see what they need to do to get caught up in those classes.”
This isn’t something that the coaching staff only does during football season either. Coach Felty and his team monitor grades throughout the year to make sure a student is passing and completing the required work from their classes.
Felty recalled a math teacher that took extra time to come over to the athletic facility to help tutor students after workouts during the season. Other teachers will email the coach periodically to let them know if a student is misbehaving in class or behind in work.
Several practices this year had to be shuffled because students were sent back to finish an assignment or take a test that was missed.
“It was disappointing that those things were set out as allegations that we don’t do,” Felty said. “Not one person has come to me and asked me how we handle grades.”
Felty said that his freshman and Varsity team each lost two players due to grades. The Junior Varsity team lost more to grades. However, grades weren’t the only reason the JV season had to be cancelled after the Liberty Eylau game.
Grades were a part of it according to Felty but another factor was injury. North Lamar had about seven or eight sophomores on the Varsity team this year as well because they needed the depth.
“We had plenty to play at the start of the year,” he said. “They were sitting 7-0 and that was the last thing we wanted to do. We lost several to Liberty Eylau to injuries on top what we lost to grades. It just wasn’t feasible.”
Coach Felty declined to comment on any other allegations from the meeting at this time. He expressed his concern regarding the statements on how grades were handled at North Lamar. He noted that those allegations don’t just affect him and the coaching staff but they were allegations against the teachers.
“Education is the most important thing,” Felty concluded.
“Look at the percentages of kids who go from high school into professional sports. Sports is a great thing and it teaches lots of life lessons, but when the dust settles most are going to have to get out and get an education or get out into the work force. Education is going to take them a lot of further most of the time than their athletic ability will.”
The school board declined to comment and the superintendent couldn’t be reached at this time.
By Greg Higgins, eParisExtra Sports Editor