Area coaches speak on school choice

Area coaches speak on school choice
June 10
11:30 2021

I recently asked area coaches to offer their opinion on a subject in a new feature, “In Their Own Words.” The issue I want to address this week is School Choice in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system. 

Students in the county have the opportunity to choose where they would like to attend school if they apply for a transfer. If space is available, the student is allowed to attend the school of their choice.

In theory, this does not sound like a bad idea. There are schools that offer great magnet programs such as Atkins, Parkland and Reynolds, just to name a few. Instead of providing opportunities for students to take advantage of the excellent academic programs other schools offer, it seems the main purpose of this system has been to allow student-athletes to choose where they would like to play sports.

The system has assisted certain schools to maintain a level of sustained excellence by allowing them to fill holes in their roster or provide needed depth. On the other hand, it seems the system has contributed to the downfall of other schools’ population and athletic programs.

I reached out to area coaches that have to deal with this system to gather their input on the subject. These are their thoughts. Again, coaches could choose to use their names or respond anonymously.

Anonymous local coach:

“I would say that choice negates the recruiting rules that WSFCS has. We as coaches are told that we cannot recruit, but that is exactly what is going on from the administrators, to the school counselors, on the middle school level on behalf of the high school coaches. Kids are being picked out in middle school before they attend their residential school. We lose over 75% of our residential athletes this way at my school.”

Anonymous local coach:

“School choice is a layered topic. The reason that was given for school choice was to give parents options on their child’s education. What it has done is further segregate the schools. From an athletic standpoint, it has given some schools an advantage over other schools. It has allowed for recruiting, be it by other players or coaches themselves. Some schools are just able to offer more to athletes based off the amount of money they are able to get into the program.

“What it does is not allow some schools to sustain success. As soon as you get some measure of success, the kids leave. Case in point, the 2016 season for North Forsyth was a successful year. We had a sophomore and junior class that was supposed to take us over the top. We even hosted a playoff game that year against Burns. That spring, we learned that our cornerback was going to transfer to East because his dad wanted him to go there. Now this kid wasn’t very good coming in as a freshman. The coaches put in a lot of work with him and made him into a formidable defensive back his sophomore year.  

“As soon as kids found out he was going to East, our quarterback, linebacker and best wide receiver decided they were going to go to East. After they made that decision, our other linebacker and best offensive lineman decided to go to Reagan. It was a snowball effect, much like what I hear is happening at Walkertown this year. I then watched as all of these kids went on to be successful at these other schools after we had put the work into them. Three out of the four touchdowns that East Forsyth scored in their championship game came from kids that played at North.

“It can be disheartening for coaches that coach at some of these less successful schools. It almost feels like we are a farm system for some of the better schools. I’ve heard the argument, if you want kids to come to you, just win, but that’s easier said than done when your better kids leave and you’re already working with a deficit numbers-wise. It’s a lot easier to choose five good linemen from a pool of 30, than from a pool of 8. Like I said, a very layered conversation. I believe that more than anything, parents drive this conversation. Parents always think the grass is greener.

“I know for me personally, I still feel some type of way when I think about them sophomores leaving and the state championship that followed. Then I get on social media and see other coaches taking credit for the hard work myself and the other coach put in before they even got them. I was happy for what the kids were able to accomplish, but it just sucked they weren’t accomplishing that at their home school. From what I hear, transferring is going crazy this summer with multiple kids switching teams.”

Anonymous coach:

“It is killing us at Parkland, Carver and North Forsyth. You have kids that live in the apartments across the street from Parkland that will go to Reynolds, East and other schools due to parents assuming that those schools are better, or coaches have lied and convinced them into thinking the grass is greener.  

“It continues to make the rich richer in athletics when those kids could be at the school down the road from their home. Parkland is the only IB (International Baccalaureate) school in the district and parents will forgo a chance at getting a jump start on college credits, just to attend a school across town.  The funny thing is, the Parklands, Carvers and North Forsyths of the county usually have more understanding, compassion and push for the kids (our African American kids) academically, more than those schools they choose to go to. Parents need to do more research on the Parklands, Carvers and North Forsyths of the county.  

“They base their decisions on headlines when there is a fight at the school or an incident. The difference is, those schools are predominantly kids of color. The same incidents happen at the Reagans, West Forsyths and Reynolds of the county. Finally, the sad part: most of these parents graduated from the Parklands, Carvers and North Forsyths of the county, yet they will not support their schools with their children.”

Christopher Geter, local boys basketball coach

“I’m not the biggest fan of Choice. Winston-Salem is the fourth largest city in N..C and we have 12 high schools (fourth largest with 2A schools). None of these schools are at full capacity. Again, everything has its purpose. I agree with transferring if it provides my child with an academic advancement. This option has been overused and is starting to become the least effective strategy for athletes. It has truly affected all the schools that service the urban community. It’s like the ‘rich get richer.’

“I suggest we reevaluate the process and add some stipulations to acquire a Choice transfer. For example, each student must attend their residential school for one year before they are eligible to transfer.”

Look for future columns with coaches’ comments about issues involving local sports.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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