Portland School Board approves consolidated sports booster program

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PORTLAND — Individual sports booster organizations are history after the School Board on Tuesday approved policies governing new consolidated boosters for the city’s two largest high schools.

The policy consolidates previous sports booster clubs into one club for each high school, with oversight by the school athletic directors. The consolidated clubs will collect and distribute money used by sports teams for anything from uniforms to end-of-season banquets.

“I see it as the first step toward a more sustainable program,” said board member Ed Bryan. “All you have to do is look at the cuts we’ve made over the past two years to know we need to do this.”

The consolidated booster program comes after the board approved a work plan for the change earlier this year that included the creation of a nonprofit foundation to support athletics and co-curricular activities. But the board declined to fund a $100,000-per-year salary for a foundation director.

The new booster policy requires that donations must be made to the athletic programs as a whole, rather than to individual teams. The boosters will then distribute money to teams based on requests and needs.

Coaches, parents and athletes will not be allowed to raise funds for individual teams; fundraising will be conducted for the athletic program as a whole, and gifts of supplies or equipment will not be accepted if they create inequities between teams.

The change is being implemented to address inequity in funding between girls’ and boys’ sports teams, and to increase transparency in the fundraising reported by sports booster clubs.

The board voted unanimously to approve the policy changes, which take effect immediately with the creation of the new boosters board of directors. The board of directors will be made up of parents and community members who are elected by the individual sports booster groups.

The consolidated boosters’ bylaws that will govern the way the consolidated boosters operate will be drafted this fall.

Superintendent of Schools James C. Morse Sr. said Tuesday that the booster groups have until December to draft their bylaws, or they will be required to used the draft bylaws he put together and presented earlier this year. 

As a condition of approval, School Board member Jaime Caron asked that the bylaws be submitted to the board for approval by the end of January 2012.

“This is a very political document,” Morse said. “We want to make sure we have community and board support on the procedures. This is one of those places it could blow up in our faces if we don’t do it right.”

The nonprofit foundation, which has not yet been created, would run parallel to the boosters, with a goal of raising money from local businesses to support sports and co-curricular activities. Ideally, it would remove as much of the burden from local taxes as possible. The foundation’s fundraising goals, which have been approved by the board in a work plan, would increase each year.

The foundation was created in response to the appearance of athletics and co-curricular activities on the chopping block during budget discussions year after year.

“We don’t just have sports for the sake of having sports. It’s because they matter,” board member Justin Costa said. “We let our sports become something that was divisive. That’s not fair to the students who we’re running these programs for.”

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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