The board approved the updated policy by a 3-2 vote. Ginger Littleton, Joe Wayne Walker and Jerry Register voted in favor of the revision, and Steve Moss and Ryan Neves each voted no.
Booster clubs are responsible for their own fundraising and expenses, and their members canvas the community year-round in search of donations. Some booster clubs, particularly those in more popular sports, may have tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in a bank account. Principals now have been granted a final say over how booster clubs can raise revenue and how they can spend the money they make.
“The school principal has final authority on the existence of and all activities of a club,” the policy states. “Failure to abide by the policies and procedures of the School Board may, at the discretion of the principal, result in the revocation of these privileges.”
Board attorney Franklin Harrison said: “The main thing this does is it makes certain that booster clubs understand they are under control of the principal, the guidelines of the (district’s) finance department and School Board policies as to how they conduct themselves and what they do with their money.”
Neves questioned whether the policy is well-intentioned but too far-reaching.
“It seems like we’re giving principals complete control over everything a booster club does,” he said. “Is that the purpose?”
Moss said he is in favor of a policy demanding more accountability and transparency to booster clubs, but he said he voted no because he believes the updated policy will require additional changes in coming weeks before a final policy is set. Neves said he has concerns regarding the district’s liability pertaining to principals providing oversight of booster clubs recognized as independent, autonomous organizations.
“The ultimate hammer,” Harrison said, “is if they don’t abide by the rules as they are laid out, we have the right to tell them they have no right to use the name of the school” in fundraising efforts.
County athletic director Kirk Harrell led a task force comprised of Walker, former athletic directors and current and former booster club members, and that group examined existing policy and forwarded proposed changes to the School Board. Harrell said the objective isn’t to disrupt or hinder the way booster clubs operate.
“The biggest change taking place … is it would require principals to be in the loop if any payment goes to coaches,” Harrell said. “There is nothing wrong with added accountability. … We have no desire to put the principal or an athletic director in charge of booster clubs or parent-run organizations, but there is accountability when the principal knows where the money is going.”
Harrell said that coaches who work over the summer are not paid through the district and are deserving of payment through a booster club. Moss said he agreed with that position.
“It makes sense that (coaches) get some kind of stipend or payment for their work over the summer,” Moss said.