The Garden City USD 457 Board of Education on Monday night tabled a motion to approve a request for funding for cheerleading teams at Kenneth Henderson and Horace J. Good middle school, following a discussion about the benefits and financial costs of the potential program.

Matt Bayer, a TOSA and associate principal at KHMS, and Kyle Sawyer, a TOSA at HGMS, presented the request to the board, saying their schools were alone in the eight-school Middle School Western Athletic Conference that did not offer cheerleading, and local parents and students had shown significant demand and interest.

Cheerleaders cheer over three seasons, Bayer said: football, girls’ basketball and wrestling and boys’ basketball. Last year, an average of 12 participated per season on the KHMS team, and an average of 20 participated per season at HGMS.

Bayer said that  in past years, the schools had partnered with the Garden City Recreation Commission to offer a cheerleading program, with students signing up with and paying the commission, which would then pay the school’s coaches. The schools had had issues with the arrangement in the past, he said, namely students and families not being able to afford fees upwards of $80 for each of the sport’s three seasons.

Cheerleading run and funded wholly by the school would eliminate that issue, allowing more students to participate in the co-ed, non-cut sport, Bayer said, and giving the schools stronger control over the logistics of the program.

Since KHMS cheerleaders already had purchased uniforms through a fundraiser, and HGMS had set aside uniform costs in their activities budget, the district only had to approve funds for four coaches: one head and one assistant for each school, Bayer said. The estimated cost would be between $15,600 and $26,000, with initial costs starting on the low end and then growing the longer the coaches stayed with the program.

Because cheerleaders cheer only at home games, there would be no travel costs, Bayer said.

Board member Tim Hanigan asked the board to consider the financial commitment and how it would impact the district, and how it could be used for something else.

Hanigan has discussed his concern over the amount of money the district spends on activities versus education to the board before, stating that resources may be better used for expanded, innovative or new academic programs or projects that serve the well-being of the student instead of sports or extracurricular activities, and expressing a skepticism that those activities actually help improve student achievement.

Other board members, including Jean Clifford and Lara Bors, explained why they thought the cheer program, and other programs would be a benefit. The program fostered fitness and peer support, Clifford said. As a defense attorney for juvenile defendants, Bors said she’s seen the effect of increased student activity involvement first hand. Gang violence and truancies went down as activity options have gone up. The money, she said, would be well spent.

Bors and board member Jennifer Standley voted to make a decision on the program that night so cheerleaders could possibly cheer for the winter girls’ basketball and wrestling season. Board member Tim Cruz said he wanted to follow the board’s standard practice of approving a request the meeting after it was presented so district employees and community members would have time to offer feedback.

All board members besides Bors and Standley elected to make a decision at the board’s next meeting on Oct. 22.

In other business:

• The board also discussed possible changes and recommendations for the 2019-20 district calendar committee. Board members largely had no issue with the proposed changes, which include maintaining the current 174.5 contact days for students, monthly collaboration component and April 1 deadline for the calendar proposal, and discussed potentially making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a district holiday. They also discussed the possibility of extending the end of the school year past Memorial Day, either next year or in the years following, in an attempt to reduce the achievement drop students often experience over the summer. They will make a final decision at their next meeting.

• The board listened to a presentation of the classified salary study report, which they will have the choice to approve as part of the classified handbook at their next meeting.


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