Revanna Gonzalez and Vanessa Gamez love what they do: on top of work, family, and attending college, they coach cheerleaders for the Sweetwater Union High School District…or, they used to.
Revanna and Vanessa were former co-captains of the cheerleading squad at Otay Ranch High School and graduated in 2007. According to them, their sorry-wage saga began with Sweetwater when they were hired to coach students at Montgomery High School for one year.
At first, Revanna and Sandra (another former Otay cheerleader) were contacted through their Facebook pages by a district cheer advisor, Sesha-Haynes. She met with the two women at a Starbucks and laid out the district deal. Sandra dropped out and Vanessa Gamez took her place.
Gonzalez and Gamez went to work for the district in June 2012. They were given to understand that they would be coaching students for one year and that one of them would be paid $2695 through a district stipend twice during the school year and the other would be paid the same amount through fundraising efforts.
During the summer they worked at least four days a week with junior varsity and varsity cheerleaders. When the school year started, they worked with the students five days a week as well as attending an open-house, assemblies, district camp, and conducting fundraising events. During football season, they attended evening games.
It was clear to district personnel, parents, and students, Gonzalez and Gamez maintain, that there were two people working. The pair worked several weeks into January and have yet to see a dime. They, and the attorney they briefly engaged, have been told several different stories by several district representatives regarding pay — or lack of it.
According to Gonzalez and Gamez, the district parlayed their December pay into January and then told Gonzalez (but not Gamez) that she had to get a tuberculosis test, a drug test, CPR training, and fingerprinting. Aside from the delay for being paid, the requirements would cost several hundred dollars.
Meanwhile, Ida Spector, the mother of Gonzalez, called district superintendent Ed Brand. According to Spector, Brand reassured her and said not to worry, “we take care of our own.” He promised to pay both women and even suggested to Spector that when her daughter received her teaching credential “the district wanted first shot at her.”
Brand then referred Gonzalez and Gamez to the Montgomery principal, Tom Rodrigo, who reportedly told them he could not find pay for both of them and, further, he had cancelled the cheer program for the remaining part of the year.
And what of the fundraisers held by the cheer club? William McLaughlin, chief compliance officer at Sweetwater, wrote to the attorney retained by the women. McLaughlin acknowledged that the women conducted fundraisers but stated that money “has not been received yet.”
Though the district argues that the agreement was not for a full year, McLaughlin stated, “It appears that the agreement for Ms. Gamez’ compensation was contingent upon money left over after the payment of the expenses for this year’s activities and Cheer banquet.” The banquet is held at the end of the year.
The district has now dropped the demand to complete the employment requirements and simply wants Gonzalez to fill out her Social Security information. However, at this point Gonzalez and Gamez assert there are discrepancies and circumlocutions in the district’s offers, including, they say, an offer of a cash buyout at one time.
They are also concerned that their reputation has been damaged with the Montgomery community and they intend to take their grievance to the school board on May 13.
Chief compliance officer McLaughlin was contacted by email on May 8 about hiring procedures for this collectively bargained stipend position. He did not respond by district closing time.