School Committee Looks to Change Policies on Sports Banners; Non-WHS Students Attending Dances, Events

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Charlie Breitrose

WHS athletes signed their letter of intent to play collegiate sports. Jonna Kennedy, right, will play field hockey at Boston College, Emily Koufos (center) will run track and cross country at Holy Cross and Maddie Leitner will play field hockey at LIU Post.

Charlie Breitrose

Banners for Watertown High School teams that have won championships can be seen in the background as WHS athletes, from right, Jonna Kennedy, Emily Koufos and Maddie Leitner sign their letter of intent to play collegiate sports. The policy for athletic banners is being changed by the School Committee.

{Updated Feb. 14, 2018 at 5:04 p.m.}

Changes to the policies for how Watertown High School athletics banners are awarded, and for allowing non-WHS students to attend events – such as dances – are being examined by the School Committee. 

At last week’s School Committee meeting the board had first readings for the policy changes. The final votes are expected to be made at the School Committee’s March 5 meeting.

Athletic Banners

The policy about when a banner goes up the gymnasium at Watertown High School is being examined because there are all several types of banners, some for teams, some for individual athletes and they are not all the same.

“There is a confusion because there are inconsistencies,” said School Committee member Eileen Hsu-Balzer, who chairs the Policy Subcommittee.

The banners honor state champions, and Hsu-Balzer said that the MIAA, the governing body for high school athletics in Massachusetts has rules for who is a state champion.

WHS Athletic Director Michael Lahiff said the school will award banners for teams and athletes who win at the highest level of competition in the state. He added that those levels differ for some sports, and particularly between team sports such as basketball and field hockey and those with many individual events, such as track or wrestling.

“In a sport like field hockey there is one division champion, and for that particular sport that is as far as they can go,” Lahiff said. “For individuals in track, and some other sports, there is another level the can compete in (after the division). They can go on to compete will athletes from all levels at the All-State meet.”

Therefore, Lahiff said, someone who won championship at the division or section meet would not get a banner, but someone who won the All-State competition would.

Winners of a division or section championship will be honored, but not with a banner, Lahiff said. Instead they will be have their name on a list of division or section winners in the hallway outside the WHS Gym. He said after looking through the records Watertown has 28 division winners in track. There is already a banner with three wrestlers who won the sectional championship.

The banners in the gym themselves are inconsistent, Lahiff said. Some team banners list every member of the team that won the championship, but most do not. Banners have also been awarded for Middlesex League Championships, and this will continue, but in the same manner – listing the years the team won League titles.

As the Watertown Public Schools look at renovating or rebuilding the high school, no new banners will be made. Hsu-Balzer said the teams will be remembered and honored when the school project is complete.

What the new banners will look like remains to be decided. Lahiff said he has 14 banners in his office because there is not enough space for them. The trend today, Lahiff said, is to have banners for each sport and list each year that the team won a state championship. He showed the School Committee banners used by Melrose High School as an example.

“It is more cost effective and saves space,” Lahiff said.

See the proposed banner policy by clicking here.

Non-WHS Students Attending Events

In recent years the high school has had request from students to allow guests from other schools to attend WHS events, including dances.

“In the past there have been quirky little situations such as someone wanting to bring someone as their guest to a high school dance someone much, much older – way beyond high school,” Hsu-Balzer said. “So, we want to allow the school to monitor who is coming and to make sure that it is appropriate.”

Neither the district and nor the school has a policy for this, said WHS Principal Shirley Lundberg. The proposed policy would require prior approval of the guest “in order to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all attendees.”

The procedure for getting approval will be decided by the superintendent and/or the high school principal and added to the high school student handbook, according to the policy.

Lundberg told the School Committee that she has a few requirements for guest to attend an event at WHS:

• They cannot be over 21

• The WHS student must get permission from his or her own parent to bring the outside student and confirm that they are responsible for picking up the outside student

• Get sign off from the outside student’s parent that it is OK to attend the event

• Get an emergency contact for the outside student, and

• Provide a contact at the outside student’s school so a WHS official can confirm that the student is in good standing and would be able to attend a dance or event at their own school

School Committee member Kendra Foley said she wants to make sure that students know what the policy is and what requirements they must meet. Lundberg said she has started putting out the policy when she publicizes dances and other events.

Hsu-Balzer said that all students must sign a form saying that they have read and understand the Student Handbook, adding that this policy will be in the handbook.

Although the policy only applies to the high school, School Committee members wondered what the policy is for Watertown Middle School. WMS Principal Kimo Carter said there are no dances at the middle school where students bring a guest or date. He added that the middle school does allow students of middle school age who live in Watertown, but who attend another school, to attend WMS dances.

{The previous version of the story incorrectly stated that the Middlesex League titles would no longer be recognized in they WHS Gym.}

7 thoughts on “School Committee Looks to Change Policies on Sports Banners; Non-WHS Students Attending Dances, Events

  1. My son said there was an announcement over the PA system at WMS before the last dance that outside students were not allowed at the dance. Not sure if that included home schooled children

    • H20, if you contact the school, they can clarify their individual policy. The one being discussed with SC is only regarding high school events.

    • Fred, if you are interested in discussing the work the school committee does, learning about all the current initiatives that are being worked on, and/or hearing about why these policies are being discussed, I’d be happy to meet for a cup of coffee and have a productive discussion.

    • Did you see the picture of the gym? Where are they supposed to hang the 14 banners waiting to be put up? It might seem trivial to you but this issue affects hundreds of students who won those banners and thousands of their family members. If this is handled poorly it could lead to backlash.

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