Community Commentary -- JUDY F. RICHONNE

Is anyone else as confused as I am about what is going on at Newport

Harbor High School ("Argument drowns out cheers," Dec. 29)? Cheerleading

tryouts took place Nov. 29, but just who is on the squads is still in

question. So far, this is what I've been able to surmise from minimal

facts and maximum rumors.

The first inkling of a problem emerged when practices had been

canceled with the excuse that there had been some confusion with the

tryout process. This came after a 20-minute lecture at the initial

information meeting about the fairness and efficiency of the process as

it has been used for about 13 years. This year, something went wrong.

Here is where rumor became the only source of information. Allegedly, one

of the girls who tried out for varsity and did not make the team had a

case of sour grapes. This inspired juvenile whining, and the highly

unprofessional reaction of an attorney threatening the district with a


(Time for some facts, me thinks) After spending 40 minutes in the

office at Newport Harbor on Dec. 7, it was determined that the vice

principal addressing the issue was not in the building nor was she

expected to return. So much for gathering valid information.

But, I am determined. Monday saw me back in the offices. While waiting

for the vice principal (who was in the building), I picked up a copy of

the Newport Harbor High School Beacon (Nov. 16). In an article titled

"Show Me That School Spirit: The Cheerleader's Story," it was quoted that

practices had become harder and expectations were higher this year for

the cheerleaders. Also, the squads had become more unified, and because

of this the squads had improved in both quality and dedication. Hmm,

interesting Watson, very interesting.

My turn in the vice principal's office. She is a consummate

professional and was very pleasant with a kind and thoughtful demeanor as

she explained that it was a concern with the process of the tryout that

was at question. I was informed that great consultations took place with

all persons concerned (I guess my invitation was lost in the mail), and

the decision made -- that both the school and the district would stand by

-- was to include all those who tried out for the teams to be on the


(Next rumor: It was not a lawsuit, not a question of the "process,"

but the fact that some girls who did not make varsity should have,

according to the coaching staff.)

Where are those unified teams working for higher quality now? Can a

sense of "team" be established now that the integrity of the membership

process has been compromised? No longer can the girls who initially "made

the cut" feel accomplished or special. No longer exists a sense of being

unique. No longer the concept that hard work, dedication and practice

will result in achievement. (Apparently, simply showing up will be

sufficient to make the squad . . . or showing up with mom and her


In a letter to parents and cheerleaders, Principal Michael Vossen

requested the understanding of those who made the squad by trying out. He

stated they "do not wish to send the message that a process can simply be

thrown aside . . ." But, that is exactly what was done.

Does the administration realize the blow they have struck against the

concept of professionalism? Isn't high school the time to learn how to be

an adult, how to behave as an adult? Apparently, this is false. (So much

for the years I spent as a parent trying to instill worthless concepts

such as professionalism and integrity.)

Practices resumed with about 50 girls total. Emotions were high.

Resentment flavored the autumn air, but the teens have integrity and made

it work.

But wait! This is not the end. Once again, practices are suspended

until further notice. There has been some dissent from somewhere. The

girls are told nothing, just sent away. Uniforms will not be ordered --

and this after spending an hour at one of the most disorganized meetings

I've ever attended; routines will not be practiced. One week to go before

the winter break, and chaos reigns. What happened to the decision of the

committee? Where are those professionals to whom we have granted our

trust and our children that claimed great time and consideration was

spent and we have made a decision? Do they stand behind it? Guess not.

Winter break arrives and still no word about what is going to happen

with the cheerleading squads at Newport Harbor. Everyone is gone for the

holiday. No one is available at the school. No one is available at the

district. How convenient.

The next rumor arrives. The committee (again, my invitation must have

been misplaced) had come to another "decision." They have decided to act

in a manner befitting the station of leaders of the school district. They

will be firm in their actions and stand behind their combined wisdom and

leadership. The committee has decreed that they don't know what to do and

they will make the girls who initially made the team take the heat and

this group of teenagers will decide if the other girls should be on the

squad or not, effectively making scapegoats of the children. I am very

hopeful that this rumor will not be substantiated, but I am truly


No word over the break if there will be practices when classes resume

in January. No word as to who is actually on the squad. Just silence. I

think, perhaps, that is an action the committee can stand behind.

* Judy F. Richonne is a Newport Beach resident.

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