Portland schools move closer to consolidating sports boosters

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PORTLAND — Before taking its annual summer recess, the School Board last week approved a work plan that would eliminate individual sports booster programs and fold each high school’s boosters into a single entity, while creating a nonprofit organization to oversee the boosters’ finances and fundraising.

The board did not approve a $100,000 foundation director position proposed by the superintendent to oversee the new sports booster programs.

The work plan begins the process of replacing the current sports booster policy with one that would require all funds raised for sports teams to go into one bank account, to be distributed equally between boys and girls teams.

The plan is an attempt to make sure the district complies with Title IX, the federal law mandating gender equality in athletic programs.

Superintendent James C. Morse Sr. said he intends to meet this summer with stakeholder groups, including coaches and booster members, to hear their concerns about the new policies.

“Getting out to the community is paramount,” Morse said. “We need to give them something to react to.”

Changes were last made to the booster policy in 2007, requiring every sports team have a booster program, and requiring transparency in each booster’s finances. That policy, Morse said, has not been enforced.

“That’s one of the reasons confusion reigns throughout the city,” he said. “Through this dialog, we’ll get a lot of clarity about what the school community’s expectation is.”

Morse said he expects to hold several public meetings to get a sense of the public reaction to the changes. Those meetings have not yet been scheduled.

If the district sticks to the work plan, the new policy would go into effect in October.

“If this policy goes through in October, fall sports have an inequitable resource,” said City Councilor John Coyne, who said he was attending the meeting as a concerned parent. “These folks can go out, and do what they want. I question the inequity and ask for more time.”

Several other parents also spoke against the policy change, suggesting parents would be less likely to get involved in fundraising if they didn’t know if the money would go exclusively to their child’s sport.

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

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Teachers added amid budget concern

PORTLAND — Despite concern about what school officials have called an incredibly tight budget, the School Board approved two new teaching positions, one at Portland High School and the other at Presumpscot Elementary School.

The first position, approved by a narrow 5-3 vote last week, added a Latin language teacher for Portland High School’s Latin and Greek program.

“I’m very nervous about the tight budget the voters passed,” said School Board Chairwoman Kate Snyder, who voted against adding the position. “I just can’t get there with this one. There’s some equity issues here.”

Several School Board members cited the board’s decision not to approve two new teachers for Casco Bay High School during budget deliberations, as well as the inequity of making Latin and Greek available only to Portland High School students, as reasons for not supporting the new position.

“It’s not about whether Portland High should have an extra Latin person,” said teachers’ union President Kathleen Casasa, “but about some equity across the district. I issue you a word of caution about that, about how it looks to the rest of the staff.”

“I am sympathetic,” said School Board member Justin Costa, who voted in favor of adding the position. “I want to make sure we clarify this (process) internally, but I am willing to defer to staff’s decisions about what are priorities.”

The job will be funded by moving federal Jobs Bill money and savings on custodian retirement matching funds.

The board also approved, 5-3, a new second-grade teacher for the Presumpscot Elementary School. Superintendent James C. Morse Sr. said the school would have had class sizes of 27 students without the position.

The position converts a budget line initially dedicated for special education supplies to a teaching position.

“I have no doubt there’s a need,” said School Board member Jaimey Caron, who voted against adding the position. “There’s a need all over the district. This budget is already too tight. We’re making choices, we’re moving things around, we’re converting a lot of non-labor lines to labor. It makes me wonder if there aren’t opportunities elsewhere to realign staffing in the district.”

— Emily Parkhurst

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