New VISD regulation causes concern


April 12, 2011 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated April 11, 2011 at 11:12 p.m.

Some parents are worried a new Victoria school district policy aimed at non-University Interscholastic League groups could negatively impact cheerleading and dance groups.

The policy, developed by VISD administrators and goes into effect in June, restricts travel opportunities, training and caps out-of-pocket spending for activities such as cheerleading, dance, speech and debate, and ballet folklorico.

"It's in recognition that we want some students to be able to participate and, in some cases, the financial responsibilities would exclude a large number of students trying to participate," said Diane Boyett, district communications specialist.

The policy has been more than a year in the making, she said, and is modeled after a similar policy in the Katy school district.

The policy has different guidelines for middle and high school levels.

For middle school, it caps out-of-pocket spending at $350 per student per school year, and out-of-town competitions are prohibited. Groups are also barred from attending out-of-town summer camps.

For high school students, out-of-pocket spending are capped at $750 per student per school year and groups can attend one competition within the state. Out-of-state travel must be approved by the school board and will be limited.

Cheerleading groups at the middle school level will be heavily impacted, since Victoria does not host competitions and the regulation prohibits out-of-town meets.

"With this policy, middle school cheerleaders will not be allowed to compete, and I do feel that it's unfortunate not only for the Cade program, but the other middle schools," said Denise Neel, cheerleading coach at Cade Middle School.

Neel's squad competed in San Antonio this year and won a national title. "Common sense will tell anyone that this regulation will strongly affect Cade cheerleading," she said.

Since the new rules are regulations and not policy, they did not have to go before the school board for approval, Boyett said. But changes could be made, she added.

"There may have to be changes as time goes on," she said. "We don't want this to be something that hurts students."

Additionally, some parents believe the fundraising cap is unreasonable.

Cathy Newbern has two daughters cheering at East High School. The East cheerleading group ranked 13th in the nation this year at a national competition in Orlando and costs for out-of-state trips could easily go above the $750 cap, she said.

"Guidelines and changes can be made as long as they're reasonable for that specific organization or the individuals that are in that organization," she said.

Boyett said booster clubs will still be allowed to raise funds to help meet expenses for things such as out-of-state travel.

"If the team wanted to go, they could go to the board and ask for permission for out-of-state travel," she said. "But most of that fundraising is going to have to be the booster club if that is going to be in excess."

But the policy prohibits all fundraising quotas for high schools and limits middle schools to two fundraisers a year.

Brook Mercer, a parent with the Cade Middle School cheerleading booster club, believes that on top of fundraising limits, restrictions on competitions will hurt the team.

"They're pretty much saying that even if you fundraise, they've completely done away with competition," she said. "I just feel like this is another snap decision based on the heels of trying to keep everything equal when it's just not a possibility."

She's working with a group of parents, cheer alumni and cheer coaches in the hopes of getting the policy loosened.

"We want to be able to present a solution without turning this into a big fight," she said.



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