Cheer uproars board meeting
More than a dozen parents and community members attended the GISD special board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 25, to voice concerns about changes made to the Groesbeck Middle School cheer program the previous week.
Their concerns were heard, as the board voted unanimously to revert to the previous format.
At the regular board meeting on Thursday, Feb. 20, GMS principal Kenna Moody and GMS cheer sponsor Holly Black proposed decreasing the total size of the squad from 16 to 12, and adopting a “Top 12” format.
“Top 12” format refers to the principle that if you’re the best of the 12, you get a spot, not six spots for eighth grade and six for the seventh grade. Top scorers will be given a place on respective teams.
This proposed “Top 12” format mirrors the structure that was adopted in recent years at Groesbeck High School. Reasons cited for requesting these cheer structure changes were numerous, including financial savings to the district, easier travel arrangements/chaperoning for a smaller sized team, more competitive success, allowing talent and hard work a better chance at making the team, etc.
Although the board voted to decrease the size by four, they opted to keep an equal number of spots available per grade level instead of the proposed format. This decision was met with some resistance and anger by community members, bringing about a special meeting on the topic.
Several parents took the opportunity to make a public comment to the board at the start of the meeting, citing concerns and frustration with their decision to cut four spots from the GMS cheer team. Many parents were upset they were not informed or consulted about this decision beforehand and took issue with this change in structure occurring after the sign-ups were completed and with tryouts around the corner. Some parents reported listening to the audio recording of the meeting and being upset with how it was handled and with specific comments by Moody. Others volunteered to do fundraising or help chaperone, if only provided the opportunity.
Although some parents asked questions of the board members, the structure of the public comment section of the meeting limits speakers to three minutes does not allow board members to respond.
After half a dozen comments were given by parents, board president Tom Sutton thanked them for their input and asked Dr. Bonnie Bomar, GHS principal, and GHS cheer sponsor Alicia Baize to provide more context.
Baize explained she changed the GHS cheer team structure to the Top 12 format for varsity and Top 12 for junior varsity three years ago, after a year of tryouts that resulted in an imbalance of talent between the varsity and JV squads. Baize also said she had advised Moody that Top 12 allowed a better chance of making it for each girl, and Moody agreed.
“Believe me, I deal with the cheer girls every day, and I know y’all are upset with me and I hate that,” Moody said, turning to the group of parents in attendance. “But ask your girls how I treat them. Ask your girls how I love on them, how I am with them. It is not anything I would ever intentionally do to hurt anyone of these kids; it wasn’t even a decision I made, it was a proposal of opportunity. We were trying to look at ways to save, ways to be more aligned to high school, we were trying to make a few changes. And if we don’t want to do it, that’s fine, I’ll deal with cheer tears no matter what, and they’ll come to me.”
Although some parents wanted to engage in conversation with Moody, Sutton called attention back to the board and other questions surrounding the fairness of tryouts and processes currently in place, which documented in a detailed report for the board.
Former cheer sponsor Lori Longenbaug walked the board through the tryout process, from the mock tryouts the day before, all the way through the tabulation process and how the results were shared before the end of the day.
Transportation issues related to cheer were also discussed extensively. One reason Moody and Black proposed shrinking the size of the squad was due to the recurring difficulty of securing a bus and bus driver for away games, an issue that Dayne Duncan, Transportation director, stated doesn’t happen often but can occur when a driver (or drivers) calls in sick. The need for a full-sized bus with a CDL-approved driver could be eliminated with a smaller squad, one of the strengths of the proposal that originally won the board’s vote in the meeting Thursday, Feb. 20.
After much discussion, the board entered into executive session to deliberate, and Moody and a couple of other administrators stayed with parents to discuss concerns and work to solve problems. Moody apologized for the way she phrased some of her comments at the previous meeting, never intending on being hurtful with her words. Black stated she wished they hadn’t rushed the decision at the previous meeting and had been more prepared.
The board reconvened in open meeting at 8:15 p.m., and a motion was made by Judd Hughes for GMS cheer to return to 16 participants, eight from seventh grade and eight from eighth grade, with a mascot being from either seventh or eighth grade. The motion passed unanimously, and the meeting promptly adjourned at 8:17 p.m.