Fifteen students from a New York high school have reportedly been left out of a state science competition they won last year due to an administrative goof worsened by this year’s harsh winter.
The students from Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, Long Island, could have been eligible for college scholarships if they performed well at the New York State Science Olympiad, CBS New York reports. State officials, however, contacted the wrong person at the school regarding the deadline for the team’s $150 registration fee. The team’s coach later sent the check overnight, but it was delayed due to a snowstorm and missed the Feb. 28 deadline.
“We’re out because of a delayed check,” coach Steven Malusa told CBS 2. “I didn’t even want to tell the kids. I was too embarrassed to tell the kids.”
Student Eidan Jacob, 17, said he thought the poor weather provided competition officials “an excuse” to disqualify the team.
“We’re getting punished because the Board of Directors values paperwork over students,” Jacob said.
Stephanie Chen, 17, said the news was “devastating” since the competition has become an integral part of their education. The school’s team has become a perennial powerhouse in recent years, winning last year’s state title and advancing to the national tournament each of the past five years.
Harold Miller, director of the competition, said rules must be enforced with 51 teams taking part in this year’s event, which begins Friday at Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale.
“We are always disappointed when a fine school does not submit its materials in a timely manner,” Miller said.
The students, meanwhile, have started an online petition seeking reinstatement.
“We don’t think that this kind of punishment and this kind of enforcement of the rules is fair, nor is it representative of what Science Olympiad stands for,” student Alan Wei said.
Ward Melville High could get another chance at glory next month in the federal Department of Energy's National Science Bowl. More than 14,000 students take part in the competition each year, and Ward Melville made it to the national finals by winning the regional competition.