Cheerleading coach decision draws comments
DUNDEE--The Dundee school board held their monthly meeting for more than two hours Thursday, April 9. While board meetings usually only draw an attendance of three to four people in the audience, some 32 people attended Thursday's regular meeting. Of them, some 14 people spoke in support of former Varsity Cheerleading Coach Dawn Baker.
Baker said she was told by Dundee Superintendent Kelly Houck, March 24, she would not be brought back as coach for the fall cheerleading season. She said she has been the cheerleading coach at Dundee for the past seven years, adding two of those years were without pay. According to Athletic Director Sheldon Gibson, the cheerleading coach makes $4,568 for the fall season and $6,229 for the winter season. While there was no resolution to remove Baker from the position, Houck said there was no need for one since coaching positions are a year-to-year appointment.
Baker said she had previously been reprimanded by the board regarding a Facebook post she made following their second place finish in a championship cheerleading competition at the end of January, where she was critical of the constitution of the competition judges. She said the only real disciplinary action resulting from that incident was being told not to make posts like that again.
Baker said she ran into another issue during the winter cheerleading season regarding basketball sectional games. She said the cheerleading team had met their obligations to attend six regular season boys basketball games, six regular season girls basketball games and their five cheerleading competitions, as outlined at the beginning of the winter season. However, she said after she had already scheduled her vacation, she was informed the girls would have to cheer at both the boys and girls sectional games as well. Baker said while she missed three of those sectional games, Assistant Coach Jennifer Goodman was there with the team on the dates she missed, adding they were not judged competitions. Goodman said she worked closely with Baker, adding if there were any major problem with her conduct or commitment, she would have known about it.
Baker said while she had already decided she would not be coaching the winter cheerleading season next year, she was already beginning to prepare for the fall season. However, Baker said she received a text from Gibson March 24 to meet with him and Houck, where Houck revealed to her the board was not allowing her back for fall cheerleading. Baker said Gibson then showed her the coach evaluation he filled out for the season and asked if she wanted to go over it, but she declined because she felt the board had already made their decision. Baker said Gibson had given her negative scores in several areas, yet had not offered any corrective course of action she could have taken to retain her position.
Baker said she was permitted to state her case with Goodman's help before the school board in executive session prior to Thursday's meeting. However, after being allowed to speak for 15 minutes, her request for an appeal was denied.
"I could tell our 15 minutes were in vain," Goodman said.
Those who spoke during the public comment period expressed disappointment in the board for holding an executive session dealing with Baker's position prior to public comment. Donna Campbell, Baker's mother, said she believed the board had already made their decision prior to the public meeting.
"You guys are wrong," Campbell said. "[...] My daughter's reputation is on the line."
Parent Judy Woodruff said Baker has improved the Dundee cheer program since she took over, adding removing Baker will be detrimental to the team going forward.
"If we lose her, we lose a lot more than just a coach," Woodruff said. "[...] The difference in the program is day and night [since Baker became coach.] [...] Replacing her will be nearly impossible and it will set back the cheer program years."
One cheerleader, Mayce Goodman, broke down in tears while reading a letter to the board in support of Baker. While each member of the public was limited to three minutes to speak, students passed Goodman's letter around until the board had heard it in its entirety. Her letter describes her reaction when she was first informed of the incident March 24, adding the team has made great improvements under Baker's leadership.
"Her heart is so into the sport that even when practice is over and the season is over, she never stops coming up with new things to help us get better," Goodman wrote. "How has that all of a sudden been ripped away from not only her, but her athletes so fast?"
School Board President James Koehler said there will still be a cheerleading program next year for students, adding the board did not yet know who the next coach would be.
"The decision that was made was made in the best interest of students," Koehler said.
Gibson said he cannot discuss personnel issues, but said the school plans on posting the position and having a coach in place by the start of the fall season.