Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District trustees on Tuesday evening overhauled the cheerleading program, adding seven students to this year’s cheer squad and placing the squad under the umbrella of the athletics program.
Adding the program to the athletics department was not originally on the agenda for the specially-called meeting.
Posturing a philosophy akin to “the more the merrier,” UCISD Superintendent Hal Harrell asked for board approval to add seven students to the 2020-21 cheer squad.
The students tried out for the squad but were not originally chosen. The current squad has 16 varsity members and 10 sub-varsity students, along with a captain and co-captain.
Harrell initially said the placement of the additional students will be at the discretion of the cheer coach, but he and the board later said the students should initially be placed on the sub-varsity cheer squad.
The single agenda item of adding the seven students to the squad evolved into a lively discussion, which resulted in the addition of an agenda item dissolving the current cheerleading constitution and adding the program to athletics, where cheerleaders will now follow the athletic handbook.
Harrell said there are many programs worth cheering for at UCISD, from football to tennis to academics and music, and the expansion of the cheer squad is an opportunity to have more spirit team members present and involved at UCISD events.
Currently, there are about 22 teams with approximately 500 student athletes at UCISD, Harrell said, with more spring sports than fall sports and expanding the squad would allow for participation at spring sports such as tennis.
Harrell added that, historically, cheerleaders have been responsible for purchasing their own uniforms, which typically cost an estimated $1,300.
“This is the only activity we ask parents to buy uniforms,” Harrell said, while adding that the cost of the uniforms is a barrier for some.
He said the district is working on providing cheerleading uniforms, and students will be required to return them – a format similar to band uniforms.
He said moving forward, he would like to see the cheer constitution follow UIL guidelines.
Trustee Laura Perez voiced concerns about arbitrarily adding seven students to the cheer squad without having a plan for where they would be placed team-wise, along with suggesting that the current cheer sponsor may need an assistant to help with such a large squad.
Citing the 2017 cheerleading constitution, board president Javier Flores said there were some items in the constitution that needed to be looked at, including proper training for the cheer sponsor in dealing with concussions and permitting cheerleaders to have jobs.
“…You cannot get a job and try out for cheerleading…,” Flores said. “…We need to address that.”
He also gave an example of a benefit in utilizing the proposed format of adding team members to the squad as a bonus for faculty recruitment.
“Let’s say we hire a principal,” Flores said, describing a situation where said principal accepts the position on the condition of adding his or her child to the cheer squad.
“That doesn’t mean she bumps off another person..,” Flores said. “It will be another reason for that principal to accept our job offer.”
He also recommended reviewing the constitution annually.
Board member Anabel White added that the cheer constitution needs to be accessible online like the athletics handbook so people know program guidelines. She also raised concerns about cheerleading strength and conditioning, and how that should be a necessary component to the program, similar to athletics.
Trustee Roland Sanchez suggested abolishing the constitution and adding the cheer program to athletics, which gained support from the board and was added to the agenda.
Sanchez indicated cheerleading issues should be addressed now to avoid future controversy.
“… This is something we have been dealing with every year…” White said.
“This would mean that cheer would follow athletics… correct?” Perez asked. “They would not have their own entity, their own booster club, they would fall under athletics?”
Following the lengthy discussion, Perez asked if the board was dissolving the cheer constitution, cheer booster club, and making the change to athletics official during the meeting.
Harrell said it was not part of the original recommendation, but the board could modify the recommendation.
Sanchez asked if the item needed to be tabled, and the consensus was that the modification could take place in-session.
UCISD board vice president Luis Fernandez made the recommendation for modifying the current agenda, adding the second motion for absolving the cheer constitution, and adding the squad to athletics under the direction of athletic director R.T. Gonzales.
The motion carried unanimously, but board member Elissa Gonzalez was not present for the meeting.