A verbal altercation between a school board member and the cheerleading coach after Stanfield High School’s loss in the state basketball championship game led to the coach’s resignation. And several months later the coach’s mother was removed from her job as the school secretary shortly before her planned retirement.
The mother and daughter believe the early dismissal was in retaliation for the heated argument earlier in the year, but school officials say that isn’t the case.
Cheerleading coach Naomie Valdez resigned her position on the team following a series of arguments with a group of parents during football and basketball season, including school board member Terry Monkus, who Valdez said berated her and the cheerleaders after the state championship basketball game.
Valdez claims the group of parents blamed the boys basketball team’s 57-54 loss in the title game at the Pendleton Convention Center on the lack of enthusiasm from the cheer squad. It was a complaint similar to what she said she heard from parents after the football team, featuring many of the same players, lost the state championship game in November at Hermiston’s Kennison Field.
After an argument between Monkus and Valdez during a student gathering at the convention center immediately after the state final basketball game, Valdez texted Superintendent Shelley Liscom about the interaction. Liscom apologized to Valdez in a reply text and said it shouldn’t have happened, and the next week Monkus apologized to Valdez in an online message.
Valdez said she and the students did not make any official written complaints, but verbally complained to the superintendent and principal as well as the school board chair, but did not feel her complaints were adequately addressed. Valdez, who had coached the cheerleaders for 10 years, resigned soon after.
Scott Morris, the chair of Stanfield’s school board, said he met with Valdez, Monkus and a few other school officials as a group. He said he thought the issue had been resolved in that meeting, as did Liscom.
“Some apologies were made,” Morris said. “The administration did look into it. We listened to what had transpired.”
Monkus told the East Oregonian she apologized to the cheerleaders, but said her comments were not directed at them. She said they were made to someone else, and the coach overheard what she said.
“There was nothing more to it,” Monkus said.
Valdez said she had hoped to discuss the incident and get her job back. She said she tried repeatedly before the meeting to speak with Liscom and Beth Burton, who is both the Stanfield Secondary School principal and athletic director, but neither responded to her messages.
She said at the end of last month, she received a letter from the district saying they had accepted her resignation.
Valdez’s mother, Aleta Lemmon, had worked in the Stanfield School District for 22 years and in December gave notice of her intent to retire at the end of the school year. But not long after Valdez resigned, Lemmon was moved to a smaller office and had her duties reduced. Shortly after, on May 19, with just a few weeks left in the school year, she was told to turn in her keys and not come back.
Lemmon said she was not given any prior warnings or criticisms before receiving a memo signed by Liscom that she had been relieved of her duties and was to leave immediately.
Liscom said Lemmon was not fired, because she was paid through the end of the school year. The memo stated that Lemmon was relieved of her duties because of several behaviors, including leaving work early, failing to follow school policy and letting students leave campus without parent permission, as well as reading another staff member’s card when flowers were delivered to her at the school. The memo also states that Lemmon made the comment “What are they going to do, fire me?” to students.
Lemmon said some of the accusations were accurate, such as leaving work early, which she said she did because she had not taken a lunch that day, and making the comment to students. But she said she did not do some of the others, such as allowing students to leave campus without permission and slamming the superintendent’s door.
While Lemmon is content with her retirement and said she has fond memories of her time in the Stanfield School District, she was upset with the way things ended. Valdez is upset by the way she and her students were treated, and feels it may have had something to do with the way her mother was dismissed.
She also said she would be interested in returning to the job as cheerleading coach, which has not been filled, according to Burton.