CHEER CHANGES: Board decision adds to SHS, HJH cheer teams

Stephenville ISD trustees unanimously approved the strong recommendation by superintendent Matt Underwood to employ IBM Watson and its industry-leading artificial intelligence as the district-wide classroom management system during Monday's school board meeting at Bond Auditorium. || File photo by The Flash Today

By BRAD KEITH

TheFlashToday.com

STEPHENVILLE (March 28, 2016) — If you tried out but did not make the varsity cheerleading team at Stephenville High School or the seventh or eighth grade squads at Henderson Junior High, you better check again.

But if you did make it – don’t worry, you’re safe.

Trustees concluded a called meeting Monday afternoon by voting to make changes to the 2016-17 cheer teams, eliminating teacher scores and using only the scoring of outside judges to determine who will comprise the varsity, seventh grade and eighth grade cheer clubs.

After three hours in executive session, trustees voted unanimously – with one abstaining – in favor of placing each of the top 20 participants in the high school tryout – based on judges’ scores only – on the varsity cheer squad, with others who tried out and are eligible being placed on the junior varsity squad.

At Henderson Junior High, the top 10 seventh graders and top 10 eighth graders – again, based solely on the scoring of outside judges – will be placed on squads.

Rest assured, anyone who did make the varsity, seventh or eighth grade squads based on criteria at the time of tryouts, will not be removed from the teams. The measure can only add to the teams as applicable.


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Trustees Sherrie Evans and Cole Gilliam Parks each expressed their disappointment in the board again being called upon concerning needed reforms to the cheerleader selection process. Trustees sent a cheerleader-hopeful out of Bond Auditorium in tears almost a year ago, siding with the district in a level three grievance hearing after she did not make the varsity cheer team. But trustees also asked administrators to reform the process and report back to the board.

“This goes back 12 months when we sat in this room and our district’s integrity was questioned regarding the tryout process at that time,” said Parks. “My concern is after it was questioned at that time, why are we sitting here 12 months later and it hasn’t been solved yet? There were girls who got hurt, and here we are 12 months later and there are still girls getting hurt.”

Unfairly so, say many in attendance, and trustees agreed.

Trustee Scott Osman addressed the board as a parent, recusing himself from the board’s open discussion and marathon executive session that followed. He advocated that spots be made available for all who participated in the tryouts.

“We should demand that the district encourage and support every student’s passion, whether that be cheerleading, band, FFA or football. Any school conduct policy should be supported by each and every one of the district’s core values and should apply to every student,” read a prepared speech by Osman, whose wife, Heather, was one of five residents to speak earlier during the public comments portion of the meeting. “We are here today because of a capricious and fundamentally unfair and biased policy regarding how cheerleaders are evaluated and make the team that has at the very least, the appearance of impropriety or bias and at its very worst, the potential that actual bias occurred.”

At the core of the debate is teachers’ evaluations that counted as 30 percent of the tryout score, and some students, one parent reported during public comments, was not allowed to try out at all based on teacher scores. The remaining 70 percent of a potential cheerleader’s tryout score was determined by the three cheer judges not affiliated with the district in any capacity except being contracted for the cheer tryouts. Now the scoring is based 100 percent upon those judges’ scores.

One public commenter – Lacey Rabion of Stephenville – said, “I asked teachers if they knew their scores would affect wether the girls could or could not try out and every one of them said no. I don’t think it’s fair having the teachers fill this out without knowing the impact they are having.”


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Evans, who was Stingerette sponsor at SHS for about 20 years, spoke passionately against the system and what she – and several others – sees as subjective, flawed scoring from teachers.

“I dealt with girls a long time, I’ve been down that road. I know there are rules and regulations, but my personal opinion is that this program is flawed and needs to be completely done away with,” said Evans concerning the cheerleading selection process. “I am not, would not, would never have a teacher determine who I am going to put on my team, because at the end of the day, when that student doesn’t take care of business, she’s going to come to me and we are going to deal with it. You set those things up in the constitution, it’s easy to do. Our cheerleaders, our band, our UIL, our Ag, across the board we should have effective constitutions in place.

“If we harm one student, then I can not put my head down and go to be at night when I know we should have changed it,” Evans concluded. “I’m sorry, but this program is wrong and we owe it to every student to stand up for them because a lot of these students don’t have anyone standing up for them.”

Evans, clearly shaken by emotion received a round of applause after the impromptu speech, with many in attendance there solely for the cheerleading discussion.

Local attorney Russell King, resident and business owner Mike Burge and local cheer and tumbling coach Amanda Mills also addressed the board, which received no opposition from administration concerning the need for change.

“This is a matter that is still unresolved and I take complete responsibility for that,” said Underwood following the speech by Scott Osman. “Our issue now as far as a board and administration is how do we fix this? That is where we are at a fundamental impasse.”

And they continued to be for three hours behind closed doors before returning to open session and voting on the measure with no further discussion. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be revisited again.

Following the meeting, some trustees said Monday’s actions resolved the cheerleading conflict for this year but that the entire process would need reviewing before future tryouts.


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13 Comments

  1. This is a sad day in the SISD! I thought Stephenville was the City of Champions? Since when did we turn into the City of Everyone Gets a Trophy? It seems to me that there are a few parents who think their child should be given everything in life and foster a sense of dangerous entitlement; you try out, you make it. At what point do we not trust the teachers and their judgement on those trying out for cheerleader? It seems to me the board has failed us in this sense by not backing our teachers and their judgement!! But that goes beyond the scope of this post..

  2. This is very interesting given the article from last year: http://theflashtoday.com/2015/05/19/trustees-deny-grievance-concerning-cheer-tryouts/

    Others have already pointed out the fact that Mr. Underwood has done a complete 180 from this time last year! I wonder if it is due to the fact that he reports to the board and Mr. Osman, one of whom was not happy with the results of this year. This is pretty disgusting to those again who made it according to the established rules before the tryouts.

    But maybe even more disgusting is the fact that the same board who approves teacher’s contracts and puts trust in them are now turning their back and saying their voice does not matter. If their voice should not have been a factor in this year’s process, why approve it last year? To me, and to answer Mr. Parks’ concerns, this falls squarely on the board. Pretty sad the board succumbs to a select few..

    Glad we have turned Stephenville into a city where everyone gets a trophy 🙁

  3. Totally disagree with what the school board is doing regarding the cheer tryouts. Coming from a parent who’s daughter has been a cheerleader for the Jr High and High School, she knew she needed to bust her ass in tryouts and practice hard so that she could earn her spot. Earn her spot, not have it handed to her because of who her parents are. Kind of funny how the daughter of the board member who wants to change the way tryouts are done didn’t make the team at first but some how manages to get on it. As long as he is on the school board he will continue to want changes so his daughter can have things handed to her.
    The teacher evaluations should continue to be a part of the tryout process. Do you know how those girls act when they are in class compared to be outside of school? How their grades are during the year? There is a reason some didn’t make it because of them. If they are rude, disrespectful little brats then they don’t deserve to be the face of Stephenville High School during the games.

    So long City of Champions.

  4. Mr. Parks, I think the district’s integrity is questioned even more so this time due to the fact that the board does not care what the teachers think! It is funny you even mention the word integrity with Mr. Osman sitting right next to you. Kinda ironic, don’t you think..

  5. As a student, I went through both cheerleading tryouts and stingerette tryouts. I agree with what the board is doing. A teacher’s opinion of a student shouldn’t impact their score that much. Sure, take the student’s grades into account and give the teachers a voice, but make it a smaller amount of the score. I have had many teachers not like me based on who my parents were. One particularly didn’t like me because she didn’t like my mother when they were in high school. It had nothing to do with me or how well I did in school, as I was straight A student who never caused any trouble. So I stand with the board and agree things need to change. Not everybody should automatically get a spot, but they all should have a fair chance to earn a spot.

  6. The ignorance of people commenting about this is really comical. Reality check!!! Some teachers ARE biased. They aren’t saints, they’re human just like the rest of us. There are many great ones but, as with any profession, there are plenty who are terrible. Plot twist, students get to rate the teachers to determine if they make it.

  7. Seriously? Do you know that the top and bottom score is thrown out? And then the avg is taken? And that it is only 30% of the score? It seems to me the system has the checks and balances in place by those previously mentioned statements. Keep in mind the person in question here did in fact make the JV squad but was unhappy with that team. That is when Mr. Osman felt the need to bring “justice”. True, some teachers might be biased, but I am guessing that every one of them is not and that it would not ultimately affect the score unless the student is really not deserving. The real issue here is the fact that Mr. Osman had the board change the rules that he or his wife signed off on a month or so ago. This was not an issue until his daughter did not make the Varsity team. It is very suspicious that when the rules were changed, his daughter was the ONLY one that moved up to varsity. Seems to me like there might have been some insider knowledge here but let’s try and stick to the facts..

    Then it opened up the bigger issue of the board/superintendent not putting trust in the same faculty’s judgement, in which they approve their contracts. What kind of message does this send the faculty? A very dangerous one and certainly not one I expect living in the City of Champions. The statements made by Mr. Underwood Tuesday morning of “it is what it is” is certainly not one I would expect a superintendent to make. Seems to me very unprofessional and not deserving of such a prestigious job in Stephenville but who cares what I think.

  8. I can’t believe how many people have been posting on Facebook more about how mad they are that the teachers don’t have a say than that way too many cheerleaders are going to be on the squad who aren’t skilled enough to be there. That’s going to hold the squad back, especially when it comes to stunts.
    They needed to do away with teacher scores but it’s ridiculous to allow 10 for each grade in junior high. It should be entirely merit based. This has gone from “certain people get a trophy for the wrong reasons” to “everybody gets a trophy.”
    Please don’t forget, it really wasn’t fair when they used to only allow 8 for each grade in high school. You’d have 2 girls not make it freshman year who were better than most of the 8 sophomores. A change needed to be made but they’ve gone too far now. This is not how you fix things.

    There was an actual problem that needed to be fixed and it was made a little better several years ago. The teacher scores used to count 40% and it was possible for girls with the highest scores from the judges to still not make it. People started to get suspicious of this when they quit having girls try out in front of the student body and wouldn’t let anyone but the judges, sponsors, and I think a couple graduating senior cheerleaders watch. I understand taking away the student body vote for fairness, but they started covering the windows of the doors to the gym during tryouts and didn’t let the girls know what their teacher scores were. If a girl known to be really good didn’t make it, people would just assume she messed up really bad because no one allowed in the gym at the time would ask “Wait, why didn’t she make it?” The only people allowed in there would know exactly why. And the three other girls in the gym trying out with her aren’t paying attention to anything but what they have to do. If a girl does notice another girl did too well not to make it, she’s not going to ask any questions about apparent injustice for fear of having the same thing happen to her next time, whether she made it this time or not.

    Teachers aren’t morally evolved beings. They play favorites. It happens. Sometimes based on who the kid’s parents are or who’s church they go to or sometimes even who the kid’s parents aren’t and which church they don’t go to. Sometimes because the kid is a genuinely good kid and the teacher can’t help it. That’s going to happen anywhere. It’s a reality that is not going to change, but it doesn’t need to have influence over who makes the squad. And while the teachers may not know their scores can affect whether or not a girl will be able to try out, they must know their scores affect tryout results. Why else would the teachers be given a form asking them to score girls on not just their grades, but their attitude and dress code adherence (I don’t remember what the other categories were. I think it’s in the constitution. I know one used to say “appearance” and they either took that out or changed it because there was confusion about what it meant.)? Were the teachers not told their scores would count 30% of the total score?
    Please consider that sometimes a teacher may feel the need to score a girl higher than she deserves for class conduct in order to help her make it because said teacher knows the girl’s best friends probably will. Imagine being given that form as a teacher and feeling like you had the fate of a friendship in your hands. You can’t expect teachers not to consider that. It would also be naive to assume no teacher would ever give a girl who doesn’t seem to be friends with anyone trying out a lower score. The girls weren’t even allowed to see what their teacher scores were. If the teachers were honest, they could have benefited from learning what they scored low on with the identity of the teachers kept secret. Several years ago people did start trying to change this and they got the teacher influence down to 30% and started dropping the lowest and highest teacher score for each girl. There’s a reason they did that. One of my fellow cheerleaders told me a teacher told her she scored her higher than she did others because she really wanted her to make it. This girl told me this with no shame, like she really didn’t think it was wrong. That’s not good for the girl. If you don’t want entitled girls on the squad who think they’re somehow superior to others, having teachers affect the scores is not the way to prevent it. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t stand the everybody get’s a trophy movement, but giving a few people a trophy for the wrong reasons isn’t okay either. Both making it on the squad as a result of teacher influence when someone more skilled than you didn’t and being allowed on the squad when you aren’t good enough because less than 20 people were good enough are examples of having something handed to you.

    I’m sure plenty of teachers probably just give the girls the highest scores possible every time. Other teachers probably spend more time thinking about the scores they will give. If that was the only thing going on, it would still be a problem because the girls don’t have all the same teachers. One may have more teachers who are generous with the scores because it’s convenient than another.
    Even if the teachers were to be perfectly ethical about this, I still don’t think it would be right. This isn’t required for any other kind of athlete. The behavior expected of cheerleaders in class should be made clear to the girls themselves, and when they are cheerleaders, they should be held accountable for their actions in class and at least lectured by the coaches. College coaches lecture the whole squad when they hear about one cheerleader doing something he or she shouldn’t just to remind everyone.

    As for the varsity and JV thing in high school… Yeah, it’s gone from “certain people get a trophy for the wrong reasons” to “everybody gets a trophy.” That’s way too many cheerleaders I think. 20 varsity cheerleaders would be great for bigger stunts but I think that should be the maximum amount allowed. You should have to reach a certain score to be on varsity and if less than 20 reach that score, there should be less than 20 varsity cheerleaders that year. How many girls are they allowing on JV? If they’re going to be allowing girls who don’t have enough skills on JV, they should at least have practices dedicated to working on their skills. We didn’t spend enough time on that stuff during practice.

    They should also add stunts to the tryout. Isn’t that what most schools do? I know it’s what most colleges do. We didn’t take stunts seriously enough. Some of the smaller girls with less muscle who should have been flyers would always end up lifting a girl that’s about their size because they were afraid to fly, while the stronger girls who should have been lifting them did fly. That’s unacceptable. I haven’t been keeping up with this so I don’t know if there had been changes since I graduated but there really was a problem and I’m glad part of it has been solved but I think they went too far and I hope they change things to to make it tougher to get a spot than this. If every one of the cheerleaders genuinely loved it and wanted to improve, having so many on the squad at a 4A school wouldn’t be a problem, but in an imperfect world, there’s nothing like worrying about being replaced to get you to work hard all year improve. Adding stunts to the tryout would also hopefully motivate cheerleaders to get the damn stunts right during the year.

    Tl;dr
    I think if they’re going to allow 10 cheerleaders in seventh and 10 in eighth grade, they should all have had to pass a reasonably high score with the judges. If less than 10 reach that score, less than 10 should make the squad. If Varsity is going to have 20 cheerleaders, the same should apply. JV should still have to reach a minimum score. I really want to know how many JV cheerleaders they want to allow.
    Judges scores should count 100%. Girls should have to be passing classes and making it to class on time to try out. (Girls failing classes should be spending time in tutoring instead of cheerleading anyway and cheerleaders should not have a problem getting to practice, pep rallies, and games on time.)
    Sponsors should be more willing to give demerits for bad behavior and should lecture the whole team if they so much as hear a rumor that one cheerleader behaved badly in class. The whole team can benefit from the reminder anyway, whether the rumor is true or not. Teenage girls are awful, coaches are hard on them for their own good. Cheerleading sponsors should be as strict as coaches.
    Stunts should be a part of tryouts. It’s extremely important to have girls on the squad who know how to cooperate and who care about being safe and doing well.

    Ugh, Tl;dr
    There really was a problem. Then it was made less of a problem. Now they finally solved the problem and could have stopped there but they went too far and created a new one. There’s a better way to deal with this.

  9. Let’s get on the real here. This is EXACTLY why this generation is a generation of entitlement. IF they don’t get what they want they find a flaw in the system with the help of parents and unfortunately sometimes get a lawyer involved. Let me ask you this….How many of our kiddos in any program including Cheerleading have gotten scholarships to go off to college? Not many at all. The big picture in my opinion is this…When I was younger you tried out…if you didn’t make it you had to ask yourself if it was worth working all year to better yourself for the tryouts the next year. Now you don’t make it you gripe and possibly get something overturned to get their ways. That is teaching these kids absolutely nothing. And we sit back and wonder why majority of them are disrespectful, rude and want everything for nothing. It isn’t something they pick up overnight. These kids see this from their parents. My daughter tried out when she was a freshman…didn’t make it. She cried and my heart hurt for her but the cheerleading program has gone down hill for years now. Therefore she never tried out again and I was OK with this especially looking back at how there seemed to be many kids say how miserable it was and no one ever really looked forward to it. And no this hasn’t just been the last few years since there was a sponsor change it has been for YEARS. Look at how many girls that LOVED it don’t want a part of it at all. That should speak volume but no one looks at that. We do not need to raise kids that should get their way by pouting, we need to raise our kids to work for what they want if they aren’t successful in getting it work harder if it is something you truly want. I know for a FACT that teachers will do low scores for kids that they are not fond of. And yes I understand they will drop the highest and the lowest scores but teachers talk. If teacher A doesn’t like said child I can assure you none of them will like said child resulting in ALL scores being low. So tell me how this helps by dropping the highest and lowest scores again? Means nothing. I do think teachers should get some type of say for sure but do not know a good solution to this.

  10. If you’re not happy with how things are done you make changes when school board elections take place by voting for different person or running for the position.

  11. Is everyone really upset with this? Its cheerleading…

    I can’t believe the school board has to spend its time on this kind of thing.

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