School board votes 4-3 in favor of GHS cheerleader trip to Pro
Gilroy – The Gilroy High School varsity cheerleading squad walked out of the
district’s board room, after the close of a meeting that lasted late into
the night, with smiles on their faces and tears of joy in their eyes.
After a three-week struggle the 11 members finally learned that they
will head to Hawaii in February to perform in the National Football League
Pro Bowl – making the trip even sweeter.
“I was prepared for the worst,” said Jessica Martinez, a 17-year-old senior. “We all thought it was a done deal but then the community came out of nowhere.”
After three hours of deliberation, in a 4-3 vote, the Gilroy Unified School District board approved the out-of-state field trip. Trustees Javier Aguirre, David McRae, Jim Rogers and Jaime Rosso all voted in favor of the trip, while Trustees Rhoda Bress, Tom Bundros and Pat Midtgaard voted against it.
In order to participate in the show, the team is required to attend three practices which fall on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. On Feb. 10, the Saturday after the final practice, the squad will join a host of spirit teams from across the nation and perform their routine.
“This is gonna be, like, amazing,” said Jennifer Gustin, one of the cheerleaders who will perform in Hawaii show.
The intense controversy surrounding the cheerleading trip began two weeks ago when, in a 5-2 vote, the GUSD board backed the district’s decision to not allow the squad to travel to Hawaii. McRae and Rogers were the two trustees to vote in favor of the field trip.
After earning a superior rating during summer camp, the varsity team was invited to perform at the Pro Bowl, an event the team has participated off and on for the past 25 years.
Principal James Maxwell initially approved the field trip request but when it landed at the district office, it was rejected. The squad appealed the decision and it was set before the board. Last week Boardmember McRae asked the board to place the reconsideration of the trip on the agenda and in a unanimous vote the members voted to look at the field trip a final time.
On Wednesday, in front of a packed board room, Rosso and Aguirre said after gathering more information and listening to more sides of the argument, they’d changed their minds and decided to cast their votes for the cheerleaders. Rosso reiterated that the board policy passed in June of 2005 failed to address specifics.
The policy discourages field trips that result in excessive loss of class time but does not define exactly what “excessive” means.
Also, Rosso said he thinks the exceptions made in the past set a precedent by approving other field trips that resulted in loss of instructional time. In August of last year, the board approved a field trip for the Future Farmers of America that entailed missing six days of school and in April placed its stamp of approval on a middle school four-day science camp trip.
Aguirre said he wants to see the board policy more clearly defined and was troubled when he learned that the cheerleaders were under the impression since summer camp that they’d be performing in Hawaii.
Rogers also said it bothered him that the teens weren’t told ahead of time that they wouldn’t be able to attend the trip.
“And our board has caught a lot of flak about lack of communication and getting the word out,” he said, explaining that the cheerleaders had “false hopes” about the trip.
He said he was extremely proud of how the cheerleaders handled the situation, saying the teens were often more polite than some of the adults. In addition, he said he was disappointed to hear that two boardmembers had, without his knowledge, arranged a meeting with the Dispatch editorial board to share their side of the story.
When Midtgaard spoke she explained that the science camp trip is not a good comparison because it falls under “educational” while the cheerleading trip is considered “extracurricular.”
Bundros, who has stayed the course voicing his opposition to field trips that result in loss of instructional time, said there’s a false assumption among the group that the board chose to pick on the cheerleaders.
“This has nothing to do with it being the cheerleaders it has to do with the trip,” he said.
Some parents and local educators spoke against the trip, including Eliot Elementary School Principal Diane Elia, who said the days are already too short to thoroughly teach all the state standards required.
Field trips do add to an education, “however I believe (they) should occur after school,” she said.
In the current state of education, considering all the requirements imposed on public schools, “I find it less and less acceptable for students to miss class for things such as these,” Elia said. “We can’t afford the loss of the limited time we have.”
But in the end, despite the three “no” votes, the cheerleaders declared victory.