February 13, 2014 || By Michael Romain
In a February 12, 2014, article entitled “A Proviso East Cheerleading Coach’s Dismissal Prompts Outrage, Cries Of Unfairness,” I incorrectly implied an association between two things that, upon further clarification, were not connected in the way I depicted them to be. According to the article, in the wake of head cheerleading coach Launa Mobley’s suspension/termination, members of the administration:
informed her that she was suspended; that by 2pm that same day, despite having been informed that she was only suspended, her job was posted on the district’s employment website–effectively signaling her termination; and that by the end of that school day, her cheerleaders had received letters that stated the following:
“To the parents of our cheerleading athletes. The Proviso East Administration regrets to inform you our [sic] Head Cheerleading Coach is no longer at the high school. Our decision is to continue without disruption of games, competitions and any efforts regarding fundraisers. We want to ensure that your child has a positive experience. We are currently searching for the best qualified candidate for the position. In the meantime, Administration will ensure that practices, performances and competitions will continue as scheduled. Should there be any changes, we will alert you as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience as we move forward with this transition.”
That letter was accompanied by another letter that the girls received not long after the first one. It was to inform them about a special mentoring visit from State Senator Kimberly Lightford on February 13th. “This activity is only for the cheerleaders and the coach,” the letter reads. “It is imperative that the cheerleader attends.” But after many parents complained, the visit was cancelled.
After communicating with Senator Lightford, we were informed that what we referred to as “a special mentoring visit” had been in the works between the Senator and the school administration since at least December of last year–well before the incident happened–and that the meeting was subsequently cancelled by the Senator herself, not as a direct result of parental backlash.
“My initial communications with Proviso began in December. Every year, we mentor girls in the Spring at one school and in the Fall at another, alternating between schools in Chicago and those in the suburbs.” Senator Lightford said. The mentoring program is just an aspect of her overall focus on education and community-building, and is in line with other programming she sponsors, such as Saturday University.
She said that it was her decision to select the Proviso East cheerleaders as the focus of her next mentoring session and that a date for the first session had been originally scheduled for January, a few days after Martin Luther King Day. Due to scheduling conflicts, however, that date was changed to February 13th.
“When I was notified that there were issues involving their coach, I declined,” she said. “I decided to postpone the meeting until they took care of things.”
Senator Lightford emphasized that her decision to conduct the mentoring session with the cheerleaders was, in part, due to her support for Mrs. Mobley.
“I have never had a problem with the coach or the parents,” she said. “I just wanted to support Mrs. Mobley and whatever she was doing at the school, period. This had nothing to do with politics, the administration or anything else–this is just apart of what we do.”
In Quoting A Parent’s Testimony, I Mistakenly Referred To Mr. Crespo As Mr. Valente
In that same February 12th article, I incorrectly recounted the testimony of a parent. According to that erroneous section of the article, in which a parent, Jennifer Johnson, recalled an instance of perceived misconduct:
“First, they put the kids on a bus with a security guard, not with someone who was supposed to be over the cheerleaders,” said Jennifer Johnson, another cheerleading parent.
“Second, not all of the cheerleaders were on the bus. By the time they got back to West, they put my daughter in a room with no parent. They were in a room with only a male principal. All females! That should never have happened. That’s the second time that’s happened,” Johnson said.
“The other time, the girls were having practice and Mr. Valente was the only one supervising them. Just him, a male, no adult females. And he had his camera phone out. There were young ladies practicing in just sports bras. When some of us called him on that, he said, ‘Well, there are cameras everywhere in the school.’ That’s not good enough. If you’re going to discipline teachers for misbehaving, then he needs to be disciplined, too.”