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Akron parents urge School Board to reinstate cheerleading program

A handful of parents and cheerleaders urged the Akron Central Board of Education on Tuesday to allow them to raise the estimated $6,000 needed to pay a coach so the cheerleading program can continue in 2011-12.

The cheerleading coach was one of several positions and programs cut from the proposed $29 million budget as the district grappled with a cutback in state aid of about $2.6 million.

After several meetings earlier this month with the district's Budget Advisory Committee that drew a couple of hundred people, the board did reinstate several positions and programs from an earlier draft budget. It did so by using $266,000 in restored state aid and another $116,000 in reserves.

Deborah Bodenschatz, a parent, presented the board petitions signed by 265 residents favoring allowing parents to raise the funds for the coach so the cheerleading program can be reinstated.

Acknowledging that "many modified sports are being cut as well," Bodenschatz said, "at least those students have a chance to try out for the school teams if cheerleading is cut there is no other alternative."

Among arguments presented for keeping cheerleading is that it is "a sport that promotes health and fitness," and several colleges throughout the United States offer scholarships to young women who have had four years of cheerleading in high school.

The Akron cheerleaders placed fifth in the 2008 national championships at Disney World. Another parent, noting that parents raised the money to finance that trip, said she was confident that funds for the coach could be privately raised.

School Superintendent Robin B. Zymroz said after the meeting that district officials will consult with the athletic director "on the viability of continuing the coach through private donations."

Also at the meeting, several other residents chastised the board over the nearly 5 percent increase in the property tax for the budget that will be voted on May 17.

Donald York said enrollment has only fluctuated by about 100 students in the last 15 years to about 1,600, yet the property tax continues to spiral upward.

"People out in the real world are getting laid off, losing their jobs, their health insurance, their houses, rein it in," he said, pointing his finger at the board members.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 10 in the high school auditorium.

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