No cheers for Board of Regents

Huge news came out of the recent New York state Board of Regents meeting. It did not have to do with the Common Core, teacher evaluation, student testing, state aid to public schools, the New York state “bar exam” for teachers, cuts to the teaching force in all school districts or the budget gaps that every school district is struggling with right now.

Instead, the leaders of all public education matters in New York state took up another important topic: making cheerleading a sport in New York state.

Before you “backflip” out on me, I am not denigrating cheerleading or the fabulous athletes and coaches who participate in it. As a former athletic director, coach and school administrator for many years, I was always a proponent of cheerleading and was one of the original supporters of recognizing cheerleading as a sport rather than as a school activity – the place it started in most schools.

Recognizing cheerleading as a sport involves much more than just taking it off a school activities list and moving it into an athletic department.

Cheerleading advisers are now recognized as coaches. They need to be certified as coaches after taking courses approved by the state Education Department. As do their fellow coaches of other sports, they have to be current on first aid, CPR and all of the other safety issues.

Recognizing cheerleading as a sport is something with which I agree and have always championed.

“Then what is the issue?” you might ask.

As usual, the members of the state Board of Regents and state Education Department are proving how out of touch they are with what is really happening in our schools. They also have demonstrated how deep the mountains of red tape and administrivia at the state Education Department make everything move at a snail’s pace.

The fact is their consideration of this matter is way overdue and mostly moot in a majority of the school districts in New York state.

I have personally taught the New York state coaching certification courses for more then 30 years. During that time, cheerleading coaches have regularly been among my students. Most of the high school athletic leagues in New York state have recognized cheerleading as a full-fledged sport for decades and have established guidelines and regulations for the conduct of the sport that are similar to all of the other sports in the athletic program.

As for the matter of timeliness, the New York state Public High School Athletic Association, which is responsible for all sports programs in New York state public schools, proposed that cheerleading be recognized as a sport in 2009. It has taken this matter five years to get to the floor of the Board of Regents? I hope that matters of academics move on and off the agenda a little more quickly.

Simply put, the cheerleading matter was a no-brainer. It needed no discussion, and should have been passed by the Board of Regents the first time it was introduced in 2009. It makes sense; it provides a safer and better situation for the students who participate and more than that, it is just the right thing to do.

The Board of Regents needs to tackle the real problems of education and hopefully, they will hit some homeruns before the final buzzer sounds.

John Metallo, of Slingerlands, is a retired teacher and administrator.