City, softball organization clash over games during testing week

Published 4:27 pm Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Due to state testing this week, the City of Picayune asked youth recreational sports organizations to hold off on games until the state testing was completed, but one group did not.

In spite of the request the Picayune Amateur Softball Assoc., a girls’ softball organization, decided to hold games anyway, much to the dismay of some parents, said Picayune Public Relations Director Jon Myers.

Harvey Miller, Picayune School Board president, said to rectify the situation the city is planning on closing the ball fields when testing is scheduled.

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“Now we have a bunch of parents upset that they were out to seven or eight last night,” Miller said.

President PASA Steve Surpass said he got a call from City Manager Ed Pinero Jr. Monday asking them not to play this week while state testing is taking place.

Miller said that testing is crucial students and for the school’s accreditation and that students should be well rested.

Surpass said the matter is more an issue of choice since parents did not have to bring their children to the game Monday night. Every year state testing is held and every year students have games that week. PASA secretary Karen Barkman said this is the first time there has been a complaint in spite of games being held every year at testing time.

When Pinero called, Surpass said he was told the request not to play was not mandatory. Pinero said the request was not mandatory and when Surpass asked if he would get arrested if games were still held he was told no.

The request came about because of to the city council’s and mayor’s strong support of the educational system and the mayor and council members want all students to make high scores on their standardized testing.

Pinero said that for next year the city will look into requiring all recreational activities be held off during that testing week.

Miller said all games for the Picayune Youth Athletic Assoc. were canceled but PASA’s games took place in spite of the request from the city. He said he is not against sporting activities but he would like to see the children do well on their tests.

“This is each individual child’s achievement scores we’re talking about, and it affects our accreditation level,” Miller said.

There would not have been a problem to reschedule the games set for this week until a later date if the kids did not play, Surpass said.

“If they chose not to play, they don’t play. Nobody’s forced to do anything,” Surpass said.

Surpass said while the boys may not have been playing that night, they were out practicing.

Barkman said Picayune Memorial High School was holding tryouts for about three hours Monday and Tuesday nights, but the heat only came to the PASA.

“They could have their tryouts another day,” Barkman said.

The state standardized testing is occuring only on the elementary school and junior high school levels.

For the rest of the week, PASA commissioners will be notified of the ongoing testing and they will work with the parents, children and schools to come to a solution on the matter, Surpass said.

In the 10 years she has been with PASA, there have been weeks where there were games during testing week, Barkman said. She has noticed there seems to be no issue with children participating in dance, karate and gymnastics that same week of testing.

“It seems like someone is trying to hurt the league,” Barkman said.

Interim Picayune School District Superintendent said the reason for the request was due to the need for children to be well rested for testing. For years the state has required students not compete in school sponsored sports during state testing but that law does not adhere to outside sporting events, which is why a request was filed.

In response to the games on Monday, the city will close the ball fields at Friendship Park during testing week. Harrell said there is nothing to stop them from using another field if one can be found.

Superintendent Dean Shaw said the school district received calls from parents concerning their children not getting enough sleep for the testing. However, Shaw said parents did not say why they simply did not keep their children home from the game.

Pearl River Central Superintendent Dennis Penton said he has not had a problem with games interfering with their testing. The school district does not have the authority to tell them not to play, but they do communicate.

“Typically, they work well with us and work around our schedules,” Penton said of the sports organizations in his district’s area.

If games are held, then the children are usually home in time to get something to eat and to get enough rest, Penton said.