SAN BENITO — Hundreds of parents are blaming new interim Superintendent Teresa Servellon for scrapping varsity cheerleader tryout scores, lumping all candidates on the varsity squad while wiping out the junior varsity team.

By 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, parent Melinda Garza’s online petition had 1,366 signatures demanding officials reconsider their move.

“The tryout process is very stressful,” Garza, whose daughter had worked her way up to the varsity squad since seventh grade, said during an interview. “It takes a lot of practice. They practice several hours a week. It’s physically demanding. To have the results overturned is very frustrating.”

On Tuesday, Facebook was buzzing as parents signed on to her petition.

“This is an important process for the growth and safety of students and student athletes as they work to earn a spot on varsity,” Garza’s petition states. “Cheer is a highly skilled sport that often requires dangerous stunts. That is why the top-scoring cheer candidates are chosen for varsity. It is unfair to take that recognition away from students and student athletes who legitimately earned their spot on varsity. They are telling the 28 candidates that made varsity that their hard work doesn’t matter! Where is the Greyhound pride? They have taken the honor and pride away from being a San Benito High School varsity cheerleader.”

District’s response

On Tuesday, Garza said former Superintendent Nate Carman had lumped cheerleader candidates on the varsity squad as COVID-19 cases ran high, leading to Zoomed tryouts.

“Beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, the compositions of the squads were restructured to more effectively implement district-wide health and safety measures associated with the COVID-19 global health pandemic,” the district wrote in a statement released late Tuesday afternoon. “The cheerleading team’s constitution allows for amendments to the cheer program to address not only evolving student needs but also to address the ever-changing society we’ve come to know as a result of COVID-19. The SBHS principal, the SBHS administrative team and the cheer squad sponsor have considered recent parent feedback regarding the composition of the cheerleading team. They mutually agreed upon and suggested a plan to condense the three historic squads into two squads — a freshman and a varsity squad. Everyone who sought to participate in cheerleading was placed on one of the two squads. The interim superintendent has reviewed and approved their suggestions.”

School board faces parents’ concerns

Meanwhile, school board members were bracing to face parents’ concerns.

“It’s unfortunate this situation has arisen,” school board member Orlando Lopez said. “This is an operations issue. It’s just (Servellon’s) second week on the job and this is how our district is being impacted with her as the leader. The parents have a voice and they’re expressing their voice. This is a no-confidence (vote) on the interim and the school board.”

Last month, board members voted 4-3 to hire Servellon to serve as interim superintendent after Carman resigned to take a job with the Socorro school district near El Paso, with nearly 50,000 students.

Now, board members are planning to work with Servellon to draft the district’s next budget by June while launching a search for a superintendent.

Servellon, a former longtime San Benito school district administrator and principal, previously served as the South San Antonio school district’s chief academic officer.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post has been updated to better reflect the source of some information.