The Richmond Register

Local News

January 28, 2012

MCHS cheerleaders’ Orlando trip approved

RICHMOND — The Madison Central Cheerleaders will be going to Orlando, Fla., Feb. 8-13, for a national competition after all.

The school cheerleaders have twice won national championships at Orlando in the past.

After nearly an hour of discussion and listening to often emotional pleas from parents, the Madison County School Board voted 3-1 Thursday evening to approve the trip.

The entire cheerleading team, including two members who were seriously injured in an automobile accident last year, attended.

The meeting had been scheduled primarily for a mid-year review of the school district’s current budget and a first draft of its 2012-13 budget.

The travel request was tabled during the board’s regular monthly meeting Jan. 19 because only two members who favored it, Betsy Bohannon and Mona Isaacs, were present. The board has one vacancy, and one member, Becky Coyle, was absent Jan. 19.

Board member John Lackey suggested tabling the request at the previous meeting because he would vote against it and the motion would die for lack of a majority.

If the second January meeting had not already been scheduled, only a special-called meeting could have provided the board an opportunity to approve the trip that is less than two weeks away.

Thursday night, Lackey was unmoved by the appeals of the parents and cheerleading coach Karen Feldhaus.

“I’ve gotten enough phone calls to know that it’s a real problem for some of the parents to be able to have their kids on the cheerleading squad,” Lackey said. “I think the board needs to address the fact that kids who come from less affluent backgrounds can’t afford to be cheerleaders.”

Virgil Grant, a cheerleader parent, said cheerleading costs a team member’s family about $1,000, but that can be paid in increments throughout the year. Families’ contributions make up about one-third of the team’s $90,000 budget. Parents and team members conduct fundraisers to raise about $60,000 because it receives no school funds, he said.

Much of the money from families goes to purchase articles of clothing that cheerleaders keep and can wear even when not engaged in cheerleading, Grant said.

Feldhaus said assistance is provided for members whose families have financial need, and those families’ privacy is protected.

“We have fundraising down to a fine art,” she said.

Referring to Lackey’s criticism in a recent year when the team had no members from racial minorities, Grant said 14 percent of this year’s team members are from ethnic minorities in a county that is 92 percent white.

Lackey said the issue was about economics, not ethnicity. The board should consider whether extra-curricular activities such as cheerleading create divisions between affluent and “ordinary kids,” he said.

Other school teams do not have to bear the cost of travel to locations as distant as Orlando, Lackey said.

“Have you ever thought that the phone calls you’re getting may be coming from parents who don’t want to work (in fundraising activities)?” Asked Clark Pergrem, another cheerleader parent.

Denying permission for the trip would be unfair to the team members who had worked to attain the skills to compete at the national level and whose families had worked to raise the money, he said.

Bohannon, the board chair, called a “time out” during an exchange between Pergrem and Lackey, who said Pergrem’s statement implied that the parents who had complained about the costs associated with cheerleading were lazy.

Both Grant and Pergrem said cheerleading does not impinge on team members’ studies, because they have a collective 3.7 academic grade-point average. Team members also have had no disciplinary referrals and may not miss classes on days before or after cheering for a ball game.

Stephanie Mings said cheerleading at Central under Feldhaus’ guidance develops character as well as physical fitness in team members.

That point was driven home to her, Mings said, after her daughter Brittany was critically injured in an October auto accident. In addition to a broken femur, Brittany suffered five fractured neck vertebrae. Hospital personnel marveled at her daughter’s speedy recovery that was aided by her diligent work ethic, Mings said.

Another cheerleader, Katie Grant, also suffered broken bones in the accident and also has made a faster-than-normal recovery, she said.

Her daughter attributed her goal-driven work ethic to the principles that Feldhaus teaches her charges, Mings said.

“I’m tough. I’m a cheerleader. I’m used to working hard,” Brittany would tell rehab personnel, her mother said.

Brittany challenged rehab personnel to work harder so she could recover more rapidly and return to school and the cheer squad, Mings said. Wearing a neck brace, Brittany joined the other members who attended the board meeting wearing cheer attire.

The board unanimously approved Madison Central’s basketball team’s request to travel to Indianapolis on Saturday, Feb. 4, to play in a game prior to an Indiana Pacers professional game. Team members will miss no classes to make the trip, said coach Allen Feldhaus.

Permission also was granted unanimously for groups from Silver Creek and Shannon Johnson elementary schools to travel March 2-3 to Columbus, Ohio, for a “Night at the Museum” event at the COSI science museum.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmondregister.com or at 624-6622.

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