Varsity teams may have to raise money for programs

Elementary students showing poor attendance
By Juliette Laaka | Dec 07, 2012

Rockland — The Regional School Unit 13 board wrestled with a proposed change to sports funding Dec. 6 and discussed poor attendance among elementary school students.

The proposal would require varsity teams to raise money for the general fund — totaling 10 percent of their individual sport's budget — to offset cost. If accepted, this effort would save the district $30,000 to $40,000 a year. Athletic Director Jim Leonard said the athletics budget is in the vicinity of $300,000.

Superintendent Lew Collins said other districts have grappled with raising money, in some cases charging students for parking and selling advertising on school buses.

"These are semi-desperate times and we're looking at a budget next year that could have us in a $700,000 or a million-dollar hole," he said.

School Board Chairwoman Tess Kilgour said consolidation allowed the expansion of sports programs at the high school level, such as adding lacrosse and wrestling.

The additional teams are self-funded because they are not currently school-sponsored. Kilgour said clubs remain in an unfunded period for two years or until the school is able to sponsor the teams at a later date.

"How do we balance money loss and growing programs?" she asked.

Kilgour said the 10 percent funding effort beats pay-for-play and seems a reasonable approach.

The contract of each varsity coach requires them to raise funds, although the amount or percent is unspecified. The money raised is allocated by the coach toward funding extras in their program.

If accepted, the fundraising component would not be implemented until the next fiscal year.

Board Vice Chairman Loren Andrews said he wasn't comfortable voting on the issue at the meeting as he felt it needed to be analyzed further during an overall budget discussion.

The board voted to table the item. Leonard said the board made an appropriate decision because of the moving parts of the issue that need further hashing out, such as participation of all student athletes.

Poor attendance

Collins said the district is facing a serious problem with students missing school, in some cases almost half the year.

The most alarming fact, he said, is the students are not 16-year-olds skipping class — they are first-graders.

"When you're 6 and 7 years old, it's not your fault," Collins said. "It's not you that didn't get up, make yourself breakfast and get dressed. It's the parents' responsibility."

He added that schools are one-third of the equation, with parents and students making up the majority of the responsibility.

Available resources in the area, including the Department of Health and Human Services, have workers in homes to assist families. Collins said he would like to see that effort extend to include helping parents make sure their children are getting to school on time.

To mitigate the growing dilemma, Andrews has agreed to chair a task force bringing together the commissioner of education, the commissioner of DHHS and other agencies to deliberate and implement solutions.

"We can't ignore it," Collins said. "Whatever we have to do to get our kids to school, we're going to do it, and there are a lot of players involved."

New sports club

The high school sailing program through Atlantic Challenge in Rockland was accepted as a club sport, sailing under the Mariner colors. The club will be self-funded. Several students attended the meeting in support of the program.

Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at jlaaka@courierpubicationsllc.com.

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