AZTEC — Aztec High got its cheerleading coach back, but by Monday evening, it had lost most of the squad members.

A meeting at the high school between the controversial coach, the athletic director, parents and cheerleaders ended on a sour note Monday. Approximately nine cheerleaders collected their ribbons and walked out with their parents.

Ultimately, five girls remained, signaling a rocky point for one of the school's hardest working groups.

Joaquin Aguilar, whose daughter was among those leaving the meeting early, stood in the hallway of the school's gym clearly frustrated.

"The coach seems to want respect for herself but won't bother to earn it," he said.

Jodie Hooser, who has acted as coach for the cheer team for four years, attempted to resign her position in December. Hooser told parents at last night's meeting she was staying at the insistence of Principal Warman Hall, who rejected her resignation.

Coach Hooser and Assistant Coach Connie Drake -- some parents and cheerleaders contend -- were routinely verbally abusive, used profanity and threw tantrums unbecoming of their leadership roles.

Earlier Monday, Hall, who did not attend the meeting, declined to comment on the situation.

The meeting was less an opportunity to air grievances and more a "like it or lump it" moment for the high school athletes, who train as many as five times a week, 11 months a year.

Friction between the cheerleaders and the coach had been brewing for years,

said Bill Hooser, whose daughter, Jordan, quit the team. Bill Hooser is the coach's brother-in-law.

Bill Hooser was hoping to see a change Monday.

He attended the meeting to see whether parents and their daughters' concerns

would be addressed, only to be told they had a choice -- to stay or go.

"The reason my kid quit was because the coaching staff quit on my daughter," he said.

Hooser said Hall called his wife after a contentious meeting in December with the coach to say that looking for a new coach would be a lot of unwanted work and "very expensive."

Parent Melinda Lough was upset with the poor leadership, citing what she said was unprofessional behavior and abuse heaped on the team.

"Is her program more important than the kids?" she asked. Lough also decried the squad's inability to attend the football team's Artesia playoff game. The coach claimed a lack of funding, despite each cheerleader's payment of over $2,000 each per year to be on the team.

Jessica Prada, 15, made it official, quitting in her second year tumbling for the team.

"The coaching staff cuss a lot — it's too much," she said.

Prada said that when she started last year, the squad had 35 members.

One parent, Pat Drake, was supportive of the coaching staff and Kerry Taylor, the athletic director, who was hired last summer.

"The meeting went great, as far as I'm concerned," Drake said. "I was impressed that everybody kept a cool head."

Taylor would not answer questions asked after the meeting.

Coach Hooser also declined to address the dissenting cheerleaders or her resignation, deferring to the principal and the school district on the matter.

"We are holding practice Tuesday at 5:30 for all girls on the team," she said.

"Every girl (that began the year on the team) is welcome."

With regional and state competitions looming, the squad's future seemed uncertain, however.

Asked what she would do with her newfound free time, Prada said she would continue playing team sports.

"I'm going to play softball now," she said.