Lauren Minacappelli, a 7-year-old in the Edgewood Recreation Council's cheerleading program, says she doesn't really understand what the adults are fighting about.
She just knows cheerleading isn't as much fun as it was before her squad's volunteer coaches were abruptly dismissed without explanation by Edgewood Recreation Council officialslast month.
"We just want our coaches back," Lauren said.
The firings havethe parents of 10 children on the squad calling
for reinstatementof the coaches. They also want to reform how the board operates so it is more accountable to parents.
The advisory board for the county recreation program has called a meeting Monday to seek a resolutionto the feud.
Ann Basham, treasurer of the Cheerleading Board of the Edgewood Recreation Council and a mother of a 7-year-old girl enrolled in the cheerleading program, said Friday she had "no comment" onthe situation. She referred a reporter to Jim Robinson, Edgewood Recreation Council president.
"I have no comment," said Robinson. "I'm only the president, there are six other board members, and I'm not going to say anything about that situation."
Many parents say theyare upset by the board's decisions to dismiss the two coaches -- in their view, without good cause.
"I didn't know any of these peoplebefore our daughters signed up for cheerleading, but we want the coaches back," said Cindy Minacappelli, Lauren's mother. "I didn't pay $20 to have my daughter go through this. I've never been treated the way these people have treated me. What we feel as parents and residents of this community makes no difference."
The feud began last month when the parents of 10 girls on the 11-member squad objected to theEdgewood Recreation Council's decision to dismiss the squad's coach,Cathy Potter, and assistant coach, Vickie Tolson.
Tolson, dismissed Oct. 8, said she was told at one point that she was being dismissed for "yelling" at cheerleaders at a practice. Tolson and several parents deny that she yelled at the children. Tolson said she believes she was dismissed for not moving one practice indoors immediately at the request of Basham, the treasurer for the Cheerleading Board, whosedaughter is on the squad, and Jane Wiley, the director of the cheerleading program. Wiley could not be reached for comment.
"I told them I would bring the girls in within five minutes, but that what we were practicing right then had to be done outside on the field," said Tolson.
Potter said she was told Oct. 22 she was being dismissed "because I couldn't control the parents." Potter said the dismissal followed a team practice session at which some parents asked how the money they had given to the program had been spent.
Events escalatedOct. 26 when a Harford County Sheriff's deputy stopped Tolson and Potter on their way to a boys football game at which their daughters --both on the squad of 7-year-olds -- would be performing, Potter said. Deputy DeWayne Curry, a spokesman for the Harford County Sheriff's Office, said the deputy had responded to a "call about adults causingproblems in reference to a game being held," but the deputy found noproblems.
Today the squad is scheduled to compete without the twocoaches in a cheerleading competition in Cockeysville, Baltimore County.
"That was the whole point, to have the kids be able to compete and have their coaches," said Minacappelli. "The meeting's a day late and a dollar short."
Part of the problem, the parents said, is the way the recreation councils are set up in Harford, leaving much control to Recreation Council boards.
Stan Koznewski, director of the county's Department of Parks and Recreation, said recreation councils in Harford are incorporated individually and run by volunteers according to bylaws they adopt. The county supports the program by paying for officials and referees for games and by providing space in schools for recreation programs.
"At this point, hiring and firing isa program decision," said Koznewski. "It happens so infrequently that when someone is dismissed, usually it's cut and dried. There's no specific route to appeal. We're sort of treading on virgin ground. I'msure something will evolve from this."
John Paire, whose daughterJessica is enrolled in the program, said he was "very upset" by the events of the past few weeks.
"I feel that when the coaches were fired I should have been notified. I've tried several times to call Mr. Robinson, but he has not returned my calls," said Paire. "I don't really know what's going on. As far as I know, no one's been appointedto replace the coaches, and I can't see sending 7-year-olds out on afield this weekend without coaches. You wouldn't send a football team of 7-year-olds out with out a coach."
After learning of the dispute, Ed Lattanzi, president of the Parks and Recreation Council Advisory Board, decided to set up a meeting Monday with parents and the members of the Edgewood Recreation Council.
"It's the first time I've heard of anything like this happening. Usually you see parents fighting with coaches. It appears to me they aren't sitting down and talking," said Lattanzi.
"The main priority of any volunteer out thereis to satisfy the kids' needs and help them have fun."
Paire saidwhether he allows his daughter to participate in cheerleading next year depends on what happens next.
"I don't know if I will let her participate. I plan to see if I can't get some changes made before next fall," Paire said. "It seems to me like this is a personality conflict."