By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (April 19, 2016) — Changes are coming to the way cheerleaders are selected at Stephenville High School and Henderson Junior High.
SISD school trustees again dealt with the issue of the district’s cheerleading selection process Monday night, but this time walked away from the measure confident a longterm solution will be found.
“Before the 2017-18 tryouts, I’d like to put together a committee…to take a more comprehensive approach and look at the constitutions, guidelines, bylaws, merit systems, just gather information about this process at other schools and how they take into consideration qualities such as leadership and integrity,” Underwood said. “Then we can sit and talk about what we think is the best route moving forward.”
This comes after the board retroactively altered the scoring system used in the recent 2016-17 tryouts. They dismissed evaluations that comprised 30 percent of a candidate’s score, and instead relied 100 percent – as opposed to the original 70 percent – on the scoring of judges.
All cheerleaders who made varsity, seventh or eighth grade teams under the previously planned scoring system kept their spots, with any candidates in the top 20 according to the judges being added to the varsity team and candidates in the top 10 according to judges being added to the junior high teams.
The changes led to the addition of one cheerleader to the varsity squad and two each in seventh and eighth grade.
But this led to another uproar, as some teachers felt there evaluations were not considered relevant by trustees, and at least one parent thought it was unfair after her daughter was left off the team following a level three grievance concerning the cheerleader selection process last year.
“My daughter and several others were cheated last year by a fundamentally flawed system,” said Jennifer Garrison, who pleaded with board members a year ago to alter the system to allow cheerleaders she felt deserving – including her daughter – onto the varsity squad. “I’m extremely disheartened and disappointed and frankly disgusted that I’m here again. I don’t have a dog in the fight this year, but I am still extremely concerned for the students in our district.”
Garrison says her daughter, who attended both the Level 3 grievance hearing last year and Monday’s meeting, decided not to tryout this year.
“We went this year when they had the meeting about tryouts and we were optimistic about what we might see,” said Garrison. “Ten minutes into it, my daughter and many other girls who were already cheerleaders said they were not trying out. We could already tell (the process) was going to cause more problems this year.”
Garrison agreed with parents who spoke out during a called meeting in March, saying she did not believe teachers were properly instructed how to evaluate the candidates. She also believes teachers had no idea how important their evaluations were to the selection process.
“Who was in charge of the new scoresheets? Who did the new teacher evaluations? Did teachers know their information was 30 percent of the score? I don’t think so,” said Garrison. “Did the board approve the new evaluations and scoresheets when there were concerns brought up? Did anybody even evaluate whether they were even mathematically legitimate because they weren’t. That’s not fair to the girls. They shouldn’t have to go through that.”
Trustee Cole Gilliam Parks agrees. He asked for the item to be placed on the agenda, and explained why.
“I just want communication so we know something is being done to fix this,” said Parks. “So Mrs. Garrison and others don’t feel as if this has been put on the back burner again.”
So Underwood and administrators will dole through the process with a committee that will include trustee and former Stingerette Dance Team sponsor Sherrie Evans. She immediately raised her hand to volunteer when Underwood mentioned having at least one board member on the committee. He also said the board would be kept up to date throughout the process and the final plan would be shared with all trustees at a future meeting.
But Underwood’s resolve to solve the issue also came with a warning to trustees and everyone involved.
“I want the board to understand, no matter what we do there are going to be some issues with the process, regardless whether we agree with (a certain formula) or judges or where they came from or how long they spent with the candidates,” said Stephenville superintendent Matt Underwood. “There is a myriad of intricacies that go into these decisions, but I feel if the process is clear that we can stand behind it moving forward.”