CANOGA PARK — The Canoga Park High School cheering coach, who led squads to three national and eight state titles, is quitting just before the start of the school year, citing lack of support from the school administration.
In her 13 years of coaching Canoga Park cheerleaders, Carolyn Purkey, 39, has helped bring national recognition to the school's team, which won the world championship in Nagoya, Japan, and the Miss Drill Team USA Championship and the USA National Championship in 1995.
Purkey said that despite the awards, the school administration and Principal Larry Higgins have not been supportive of the team, reducing fund-raising opportunities and canceling cheerleading trips.
"For two years, I have literally hung on for those seniors," she said. "I said to myself 'things are going to get better.' . . . I tried to cover up a lot of stuff that's gone on. Now it's time for me to move on."
Purkey emphasized, however, that the community has been very supportive of the cheerleaders, donating the thousands of dollars needed to pay travel expenses to various competitions.
"It's not a lack of support from the community or the students or the teachers," Purkey said. "That's why I was at Canoga Park for 13 years."
Purkey resigned Friday, the same day she notified the 30-member squad she was leaving. She said there were tears on both sides.
Higgins refused comment on Purkey's departure, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters. He said his first concern is to replace her as a physical education teacher.
"Hopefully we can get someone" who can also coach cheerleaders, he said.
Philip Mramor, 16, a member of the cheering squad, said the team met Monday night to discuss its future. They agreed to cheer through football season, which starts Sept. 12, but have not decided what to do after that.
"We're going to have to pull together a lot more as a team," he said. The team was scheduled to practice all day Tuesday at Shoup Park.
Mramor said his teammates hold no hard feelings toward Purkey.
"We understand what she's been going through," he said.
Philip's brother, Jeff, 19, a co-captain for the Canoga Park High cheering squad during his senior year in 1995, said the problems between Purkey and school administration were a long time in the making.
"There's been a problem since I was going there," Jeff Mramor said. He said the school administration was "unwilling to work with us, they were always looking for a flaw in her program. I'm surprised she stuck it out this long."
Purkey was a mother figure to the squad, encouraging them to do their homework and do well in school, in addition to intensive cheerleader practice, he said.
"We spent literally seven days a week working on [our routines] four or five hours a day; she was relentless in practicing and working hard," Mramor said. "That's what made us better than any other schools in the nation and in the state."
Purkey said she still wants to pursue a teaching career. She said she's been offered several jobs in neighboring districts and two at the college level but has not decided what to do next.