BOE addresses uncertainty regarding cheerleaders at football games

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Ilmie Xhaferi

The Board of Education addressed many topics at the Board of Education’s virtual meeting Monday night held on Zoom. These topics include the concerns of Pascack Valley’s and Pascack Hills’ cheerleaders attending other districts’ football games, the change in dates for the PSAT test, and a score report for the HIB self-assessment given by the New Jersey Department of Education.

District Superintendent Erik Gundersen said that he intends for male and female athletes in both Pascack Valley and Pascack Hills, such as both schools’ football teams and cheerleading teams, to attend away games despite opposition from other municipalities during Monday night’s Board of Education meeting held on Zoom. 

“There were talks that there were going to be some districts that would not welcome the cheerleaders [to away football games], so our cheerleaders [would not] be going to away events,” Gundersen said. “But I’m happy to say that we’ve made some noise on this front and all districts but one has allowed cheerleaders to attend football games.”

While Gundersen did not specify which municipalities have rejected the presence of cheerleaders at their football games, certain board members and community members have expressed their concerns about sports continuing during the pandemic.

“If it’s unsafe for the girls to go [to football games], then it is unsafe for the boys to go. They should go in tandem or not go at all. If it’s a safety issue for one, it’s a safety issue for the other,” River Vale resident Donna Porter said. 

Gundersen said that he believes cheerleaders not being able to attend football games is an ethical issue, and he believes that there should be a “priority” placed on both male and female students equally to attend the football games. 

“Saying that the parents of those male football players can attend those events but not the female student-athletes who are students is hypocritical and inappropriate,” Gundersen said. 

The BOE also approved the 2020-21 Nursing Services Plan to hire additional nurses for Pascack Valley Regional High School District. 

“I can’t thank the [school nurses] enough for their professionalism and dedication to [the district] and dedication to the students… I can’t thank them enough for dedicating [so] much time during the summer, and continuing to do that during the school year,” Gundersen said.

The SAT, which is hosted by PV on Oct. 3, is still scheduled to take place. However, Gundersen said that the PSAT testing date was moved from Saturday, Oct. 17 to a weekday test date of Oct. 14 due to a lack of staff to administer the tests on the weekend. 

“A lot of our students have been waiting a long time to take the SATs and we are continuing to hope that everything works out well with our COVID situation so that we can remain open,” Gundersen said. “We’ll do everything we can [to try and remain open].”       

The district scored 77 out of 78 points for the 2018-2019 school year according to the New Jersey Department of Education Score Report for the annual HIB [Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying] self-assessment. The district was not able to obtain scores for the 2019-2020 school year due to the pandemic, so the 2018-19 scores are the most recent reports that they have recorded.

“We believe confidently that we’re doing everything that we can in terms of implementing the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act and we look forward to adhering to all of the policies of the programs within this act for the current school year,” Gundersen said. 

The BOE rescinded the mentor pairing of PV English teacher Bonnie Slockett and new district library media specialist Megan Pettigano under the Mentor Plan for the 2020-21 school year. The Mentor Plan would allow faculty in the district to mentor newly hired teachers. However, Pettigano will instead be mentored through the New Jersey Association of School Librarians

Staff assignment changes were also made during the meeting, including the change of assignment for Gloria Gordon from district speech and language specialist to only Pascack Valley’s speech and language specialist for the 2020-21 school year. 

Chelsea DiDiego was also approved by the district to become PV’s assistant marching band director for the 2020-21 school year.  

Board meetings will continue to be held remotely, as opposed to in-person. Gundersen responded to Arnold Scher, asking about clarification for the public, regarding why that is the case.

“If we have one or more board members that have to be remote, due to their personal situation, there would be a technical challenge with having us all be in one room…We also didn’t want to force members of the public to have to come to the PV auditorium,” Gundersen said. 

The district accepted a $2,000 donation from Faith Home Health Care for the Robotics Team to develop robotic adaptive assist devices. In addition, PV chemistry teacher Christopher Nilsen was awarded the American Chemical Society Grant in the amount of $1,450. 

Gundersen also expressed his gratitude to the entire PVRHSD community regarding the success of the transition back to in-person education. 

“I would like to thank the Board of Education, the Pascack Valley Regional staff and educators, [as well as] parents and students for making this a safe and educationally productive transition to the 2020-2021 school year,” Gundersen said.