But while any youngster can try out for the sports team, cheerleading is more restrictive.
At its last meeting, April 8, Skidmore-Tynan Independent School District trustees wrestled with the question of just how restrictive.
Trustee James Bennett — whose daughter, Alyssa, is a junior high cheerleader — asked for a review of the district’s cheerleader program and handbook, citing the program’s mandatory fees to become a cheerleader.
A student who is accepted pays $500 to join the junior high team; $600 to join the senior team.
“You can play any sport, and it doesn’t cost you a dime,” Bennett said, questioning whether that was unfair to students who can’t afford the fees.
In addressing his questions directly to cheerleader sponsor Amanda Hubbard, Bennett said, “I don’t want this program to be elitist.”
Hubbard explained that the students could pay the fees by spreading out the payments, and that the team also conducts fundraisers — revenue from concession stands, sale of spirit cups, popcorn buckets — to help defray costs.
“This is dependent on the student coming to me or to the superintendent to set up a payment plan.”
The fees cover the costs of a student’s attending cheerleader camp and the uniforms.
“I’m willing to work with them as much as we can,” Hubbard said.
Bennett noted the lack of a scholarship system to help pay cheerleader expenses.
Hubbard explained that the STISD fees were “well below what other districts charge,” citing costs that ranged from Taft Junior High School’s $700 to Odem High School’s fee of $1,100.
“I feel that we are keeping the costs down as much as possible,” Hubbard said.
“Why do we charge for cheerleading but not for sports?” Bennett continued.
“If we are going to pay for everything they need and want, then we have to open it (cheerleading) up to anyone being a cheerleader,” Hubbard said. “We would have to cover the costs for maybe 60 people wanting to be cheerleaders.”
Such a provision, she said, would mean the school’s having to maintain stock uniforms, used in rotation, which would mean each cheerleader’s uniform no longer would be personally tailored.
“If we had a pep rally,” Superintendent Dr. Brett Belmarez said, “we might have 50, 60 cheerleaders on the sideline. The reasons behind the privileged nature of it, and the (fees) and the privilege is to have that exclusivity.”
Last year, Hubbard said, 30 students applied to be cheerleaders. That number was pared to 19 for junior high; 17 for high school. The top 10 then are chosen for junior high; the top 12 for senior high.
“My issue with the whole thing is that there’s nothing in writing in the handbook that explains there are methods to pay for it,” Bennett said. “So, from the very beginning, those who can’t afford it don’t go any further. It becomes a class thing.
Belmarez told the board that, in the future, cheerleading could become a UIL-sanctioned sport, which would obligate STISD to treat cheerleader candidates equally, even though membership currently is predominantly female.
Because board policy indicates that operation of the cheerleader program is the responsibility of the STISD administration, rather than the trustees, the board only could recommend the handbook be changed to reflect the availability of installment plans and fundraising projects to finance the cost.
Hubbard also said the team could organize additional fundraisers, if necessary, to help pay the fees or anyone picked for the cheerleading team.
“I just don’t want the fee to exclude some students who can’t afford it,” Bennett said.
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.