Dallas School District cheerleaders and their parents addressed the school board at its March 11 meeting regarding varsity cheerleading coach Suzanne Powell.
Jennifer Sorber, a middle school cheerleading coach in the district and parent, said her daughter was bullied by Powell and Sorber felt forced to protect her from verbal taunts during practices and games.
“I’m also a coach and it is important to motivate those we coach but there is a line we, as coaches, do not cross,” said Sorber, questioning the appropriateness of Powell sending text messages directly to those she coached.
Lisa Cummings, parent of cheerleader Aneilla Cummings, 14, said many cheerleaders were afraid of the coach and many would not be trying out for the cheer team next year because of its reputation of negativity and drama.
Several varsity cheerleaders Powell had coached addressed the board, indicating they had successfully cheered under other coaches but that Powell had labeled them as “starting drama” or not working hard enough.
Powell, who limited her comments to the board, said that often it was sometimes necessary to offer strong directives to those she coached and cited improvements in the varsity cheer team during the 2 ½ years during which she had coached.
Karen Sebolka, who spoke in defense of Powell, said, “my daughter cheered under Powell and, although she wasn’t always happy, she learned responsibility and respect.”
Several board members lauded those student cheerleaders who spoke before them as having courage and composure.
Parent Lisa Alves, whose daughter Ashlie had originally addressed the board at a prior meeting, said she would have preferred to have addressed the issues in a private forum but that administrators had not responded to her request for a meeting between administration and parents of district cheerleaders.
In another matter, a plaque was presented in memory of Gary Mathers, who served the board as both a teacher and a board member.
“His vision changed our traditional industrial arts program into a technologically advanced one,” said Frank Galicki, superintendent.“He was truly a front runner in that area.”
Addressing security, Bill Gartrell, director of technology, presented a video demonstrating the use of cameras to increase awareness within district school buildings.
Board members commented on the clarity and resolution of the streaming video.
Gartrell said when the project was complete there would be 111 cameras within district buildings. Gartrell would then move on to assessing and refining the outside camera system.
The district will utilize Ipads, cell phones and other devices, allowing administration, staff and local police access to the information streaming from those cameras.
In another matter, Charles Preese congratulated Forensic team members for advancing to the Forensic National Qualifiers in Philadelphia in May.
The next work session of the Dallas School District will be held at 7 p.m. on April 8.