Cheer Coach Leaves Stuyvesant, Takes Money With Him

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The former Stuyvesant cheer coach of three years, Nicholas O’Stanton, was let go after the cheerleading team’s annual trip to Nationals fell through due to his lack of organization and planning. The last straw was the chaos surrounding the team’s trip to Nationals: 11 members of the junior varsity cheer team were scheduled to go to Orlando, Florida to compete, but the trip was canceled due to O’Stanton’s poor management. O’Stanton failed to respond when the Spectator reached out for more information.[a]

In order for students to go on a trip, trip forms need to be filled out and formal plans must be made ahead of time. This plan must include a detailed explanation of the trip, its location, the number of chaperones attending, details regarding transportation, and more. However, O’Stanton failed to submit the necessary forms for approval by Principal Eric Contreras.

When members of the cheer team asked Contreras about the upcoming trip to Florida, Contreras found no record of the trip. “Immediately, I said, ‘I cannot allow this to happen, because if a student gets hurt, first off it would be in my conscience and I would be in trouble for not following protocol,’” Contreras said.

Though students were devastated after being informed of the trip’s cancellation, they understood the reasoning behind the decision. “It was just really heartbreaking. It’s something that you really worked hard for, something that you put a lot of time into, and something that you get excited for. [...] But I also realized how unsafe it would have been if we did go on the trip [without it being school sanctioned],” junior Helen Yang said.

The base price of the trip was $540 per person, but this price varied for some of the teammates. Some members contributed extra money to go toward another member’s fee, while for a few, O’Stanton himself subsidized the cost out of desperation. Nevertheless, the money each cheerleader paid went to O’Stanton’s bank account rather than being directly sent to the tournament, since he had already paid the competition fees out of his own pocket. “He asked us to pay him in check, all in his name, so all of the money went to his account,” senior and junior varsity cheer captain Justin Kwong said.

After the trip got canceled, O’Stanton refused to refund the money the members of the team had paid for Nationals. “[The coach] said to certain people that due to the last-minute nature of the trip, he wasn’t able to get refunded for the trip that he paid [for],” Kwong said.

O’Stanton is currently withholding the login information for the cheerleading team’s social media pages, including their Instagram and Gmail accounts. “He still has all the passwords to [the cheerleading team’s] social media accounts, and he’s holding them for ‘ransom.’ He says, ‘I’ll give you guys the passwords if you give me back all the trophies,’” an anonymous source said.

Contreras assured that the families who paid would be refunded, but could not elaborate further. Students on the team were informed by the administration that they would be refunded through the Stuyvesant Alumni Association. “When we were in Contreras’s office, Contreras said that we would get the Alumni Association to pay us back gradually over the year. I feel super bad about that because we’re getting the school involved when they had nothing to do with it in the first place. I think the coach should be paying us back himself,” the same anonymous source said.

The expensive nature of the canceled trip was not a one-off; cheerleaders were required to pay for many other costly things, including uniforms, summer camp, and other competitions. “We had GoFundMes, we had bake sales at parent-teacher conferences, we had the Stuyvesant Cheerleading Competition; [...] we made a lot of revenue from that. Afterward, we paid for [cheer items and trips] from our own pockets. It was a lot of money, especially since a majority of the team [couldn’t] afford all of these things,” senior and former cheerleader and manager William Wang said. “We were able to manage [with] that money, some of which came from other teammates who were more privileged and able to cover the expenses for the underprivileged and unfortunate cheerleaders. It was a mix of kindness, hard work and effort, and financial responsibility.”

Last year’s trip to the national competition ran more smoothly in terms of planning. “It was all good management-wise but that was merely because I was able to collect money from everyone, collect all the notices from everyone, and I was able to make sure that we could go on the trip,” Wang said. “This year, for Nationals, it wasn’t exactly the same. No one was there to [collect] all the forms.”

Cheer members do not look back fondly on O'Stanton’s time as coach:[b] during his tenure, cheer members were often pitted against each other when they competed for O’Stanton’s favor, which created further strain. “I never got on [O’Stanton’s] bad side but I was always very cautious. The level of caution wasn’t very healthy, and honestly, I think I kind of lost myself trying to please him. The whole thing with favoritism and kissing up was just toxic for the entire team,” Helen Yang said. “[Instead of] praising this kind of behavior, it should be about the skills and dedication and passion. I am passionate about cheerleading but a lot of it felt a little forced in the beginning because [kissing up] was the kind of behavior that he liked.”

In the wake of O’Stanton’s departure, Contreras is working toward finding a permanent replacement. For the time being, guidance counselor Audra Parris, the official stunt coach, is acting as interim cheer coach. “I think I’m going to have a say in this going forward because I don’t want the members of the team to be disappointed again,” Contreras said. “I want to make sure that the person [who] does this work is responsible.”


[b]I added this as a transition