(Matt Drzik/Beaver County Radio)
On a night that began with the New Brighton School Board receiving cheers from the Education Association for “School Board Appreciation Month”, the January 23 meeting quickly turned to cheering of a different sort.
With an uncharacteristically size of a crowd in attendance, the board heard from several students one by one as they came to the podium and pled for the return of competitive cheerleading to the New Brighton School District. Five current students spoke about the matter following Lindsay Johnson, the lone adult who kicked off the discussion of behalf of the Cheerleader Organization.
“New Brighton is known for their cheering program from youth to high school. We were the team to beat,” Johnson lauded. “And then it ended. Why? What is the real reason for saying no to these girls…these hard-working female student athletes? The majority should not be ignored. Do you want to be part of the solution, or do you want to be part of the continued effort to not listen when the majority is asking for change?”
The “majority” Johnson referred to is a petition of over 100 signatures that support the return of the cheerleading team to New Brighton, with the plea for support–existentially, officially, and financially–being asked of the school board. “We have a petition of over 100 signatures…all we need is you,” spoke Little Lions cheer coach Karmen Briancesco. “We need you to agree to the opportunity for New Brighton Varsity Cheerleading to compete again. Give us the opportunity that we’ve worked so hard for since we were in kindergarten. Let us prove to you all and everyone in the competitive world that we can dominate.”
While the school board commended those who spoke for their courageous efforts, the objective matters still loomed large over the ultimate goal. “We need a lot more information,” stated school board president John Ludwig. “We need to know how many girls, what would be the classification, what would be the least number of girls we could have competing, the number of girls who would be interested and actually want to do it, and the financials.”
Ludwig pointed to the recent eradication of the basketball team as an example of why such numbers were necessary: “In June, we had fifteen girls say they were going to play girls’ basketball. We currently have five girls.” He asked that the Cheer Organization reach out to superintendent Joseph Guarino and athletic director Joe Greco in regards to the official numbers, and that once that information was submitted that the board could discuss and potentially give a final decision in the future.
“We are absolutely supportive of the good work you’re doing and the way you presented it tonight,” board member Amy Fazio summarized. “This isn’t whether we support young women or we support cheer. ‘It’s a business decision, so let’s get the information and look at it’ I think is what I hear Lud saying.”
Following the public comment section of the evening, the regular meeting took place as scheduled. During the meeting, the board unanimously approved the 2023-24 High School Curriculum Handbook, along with the purchase of a new PA system in the middle school at a cost of $30,600. Five resignations were also approved by the school board, along with the hirings of Robert Zahn as an Athletic Worker and Heather River as an Instructional Assistant. Both hirings are for the current school year, pending clearances.
Also hired were fifteen coaches for spring sports, each of which were unanimously approved by the board:
The fifteen hired coaches will be joined by eight volunteer assistants–four for Varsity Baseball, three for Varsity Track, and one for Middle School Volleyball. The board also unanimously approved the Act 93 agreement for the School District, effective through June 30, 2028.
The next New Brighton School Board meeting is scheduled for February 13 at 7:30 PM.