Panel to eye differences in FRHSD cheer squads


After being inundated with concerns about the cheerleading program at Manalapan High School by parents of the cheerleaders, the Freehold Regional High School District Board of Education directed Superintendent of School James Wasser to examine the cheerleading programs at the district’s six schools.

Wasser reported back to the board on Jan. 28. He said he met with the district’s principals, supervisors of extracurricular activities, advisers of the cheerleading programs, five Manalapan cheerleaders, five Howell cheerleaders and two parents of Manalapan cheerleaders.

He reported that there are differences among the cheerleading squads at the district’s six schools.As a result of his findings, the board has decided to form a committee that will look into the policies and procedures of co-curricular activities.

In addition, Wasser asked Business Administrator Sean Boyce to investigate the fundraising that is conducted by all co-curricular clubs.

In his comments to the board and members of the public,Wasser said hisNo. 1 priority is the safety of the athletes and cheerleaders who are involved in the co-curricular activities.

“The philosophy of cheerleading has changed somewhat. Initially the focus of cheerleading was school spirit. It was to support the athletic programs,” he said. “Somewhere we lost that focus and competition became the focus.”

According to Wasser, there is a split within the district in terms of squads that participate in cheerleading competitions and those that do not participate. Wasser is asking the board members for their sentiments on continuity and he called the situation a Catch-22.

“It seems that competition is very important to these young ladies. I recognize that cheerleading is a very high-powered activity. Many aspects are parallel to gymnastics. To eliminate (some squads’ participation in competitions) is totally not the right thing, but to mandate it is not the right thing either,”Wasser said.

He noted that cheerleading is not recognized by theNewJersey State InterscholasticAthleticAssociation (NJSIAA) as a sport. The NJSIAA is the governing body for high school sports in the Garden State.

Board member Diana Cappiello of Englishtown said shewants the boardmembers to discuss a consistent cheerleading policy.

“We are mid-year, we can’t stop midstream and say no competition,” she said.

Cappiellomade amotion to name a committee to look into the situation. Board member Joan Leimbach ofHowell seconded the motion and the board voted to do so.

Administrators are also planning to examine the issue of fundraising.

While the Manalapan cheerleading squad was under the leadership of Lisa Rizzo-Troxell, the cheerleaders and their supporters raised money to be used for national competitions.

Upon Rizzo-Troxell’s resignation as the Braves’ coach last fall, it was unclear whether the cheerleaders would go to nationals.

Themoney thatwas collected nowsits in an account that district administratorswant to freeze until they can clear up the issue.

Parents ofManalapan cheerleaders who were in attendance at the Jan. 28 board meeting in Englishtown suggested that the district not use themoney for any other purpose than to send the team to nationals, or return all funds.

Parent Barbara Mongiello said, “If we are not going to nationals, Iwant themoney back. We raised funds with the purpose to send the girls to nationals. If the money is not used for that, it is fraud. We need answers; we need to knowif the girls are going to nationals. If not, we want the money back.”

“If there is money that has to be returned, we will look into that,” Wasser responded. “And as far as the girls going to competition, I have learned that is a varsity privilege, not a junior varsity privilege. There will be no nationals for junior varsity cheerleaders. I am very sad when young people get thrown into the middle of somethingwhen they did not do anythingwrong.”