The haves, and have nots -- Gazette.Net







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The Winston Churchill High School booster club was seeking a way to increase its revenue.

So with extensive research and some extra cash in reserve, the boosters decided to invest in a state-of-the-art $80,000 stadium video scoreboard, the first of its kind in the county’s public high school system.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but there’s a method to Churchill’s madness.

“A lot of time and effort went into it and we found the board will pay for itself in a few years with the money received through adverting,” club president Jim Edwards said during a phone interview from France last week. “Several businesses were interested in creating a presence at our athletic events so we embraced the opportunity.

“It will also benefit our students and the school is in the process of developing a class for video production. The kids will be able to work on projects to broadcast during games.”

The scoreboard, which features a 6-foot by 9-foot LED display screen, is expected to be installed by mid-August. It replaces a 13-year old scoreboard and will display advertisements and may also be used for recorded pregame videos. No live action will be displayed.

The booster club, comprised of 417 families last year, supplements Churchill’s athletic department’s budget with approximately $100,000 in donations annually. The funds help pay for field upkeep, travel and other miscellaneous expenses. The club also provides volunteers for various activities, including organizing the concession stand, physicals for student-athletes, the end-of-year sports gala, auctions and a golf outing.

This fall, the booster club also wants to emphasize fundraising by individual teams. Several of Churchill’s programs, including football, boys basketball and boys and girls lacrosse, also had very successful seasons on the field and court during the 2011-12 academic year.

“All types of hands are involved, but the club can only do so much,” vice president Bill Leonard said. “Sports are expensive and pretty much year round now with summer leagues. We want to provide every opportunity possible for our student-athletes to be competitive, but you can’t keep going back and asking parents to foot the bill. So with a little bit of fundraising, each team can potentially turn $1,000 into $5,000.”

Conversely, at John F. Kennedy, longtime athletic director Ken Cudd said there is no active booster club. The Silver Spring school’s organization dissolved last winter due to a lack of parental support.

“I don’t begrudge any school that has a strong athletic support, but I wish we just had a similar opportunity,” said Cudd, who added the largest financial donation his department has received in one year was $7,000. “It really is a year-by-year basis for us. I want to get it going again, but it really depends on the parents.”

The conditions at Churchill and Kennedy are extreme examples of athletic booster club support throughout Montgomery County. Most schools and athletic departments receive a level of involvement somewhere in between.

“No matter what a school’s situation is, a booster club is extremely integral to success,” said Clarksburg Athletic Director Jeff Sullivan. “The parents and community members help with all the little things. Not just with money, but with every aspect of putting on a first class event for our student-athletes and an entire school.”

Clarksburg’s boosters raise approximately $40,000 annually and recently contributed $8,000 for a lighted marquee sign at the school’s entrance and is raising funds to construct a brick walkway, said club president Lisabeth Belman.

“We, like most schools, have to have a great relationship with the school’s administration,” said Bethesda-Chevy Chase booster president Bridget Cowie, adding that the four-year-old organization generates between $40,000 and $50,000 a year. “We sit down regularly with our athletic department with a wish list from parents and coaches and see what is feasible.”

Booster clubs provide a wide variety of financial donations and manpower for a range of activities, from field maintenance and staffing concession stands to soliciting sponsorships and organizing scholarships, camps and fund-raising activities. Many athletic departments also hold meet and greet opportunities to interact with coaches and membership drives.

“There’s a lot of haves and have-nots, so maybe there needs to be a booster salary cap or luxury tax,” James H. Blake booster club president Mark Wannen said with a laugh. He added the Bengal boosters raise an average of $30,000 annually to give back to their athletic teams. “I imagine the demographic situation at each school plays a role, but I think a bigger factor may be the success of the football team because that is the biggest draw for ticket revenue.”

Bill Burchett, president of the Richard Montgomery booster club, which generates in excess of $50,000 annually, said, “It really is a year-round job. My son was playing for two months before I found out about the booster club and I learned that there is a lot more to high school sports than having your kid just show up for practice and games. We provide a marketing brochure and email list in an attempt to raise membership because there are so many behind the scenes things.”

The Montgomery County Public School system does provide funds to high schools’ athletic departments each year for operating costs.

In fiscal 2012, county high schools received an average of $63,175, from $50,000 to $78,000, MCPS spokesperson Dana Tofig told The Gazette last month. The amount, which is determined by a formula based upon the size of the school and the average amount of revenue brought in with gate receipts during a three-year period, does not include some athletic costs, including coaching stipends.

At Watkins Mill, the booster club’s influence begins in grade school. Each summer, the organization, school and athletic department host March to the Mill, a week-long sports camp. Elementary and middle school-aged children from the Watkins Mill cluster are invited to attend and Wolverine coaches and student-athletes from several sports serve as counselors.

“Montgomery County schools are supported by a wide range of economic systems, but the neighborhoods really define the school,” said Watkins Mill booster club president Jim Marsh, who added the club generates between $60,000 and $80,000 annually. The organization also offers discounted student booster club memberships to promote community involvement. “Our goal is to create a close-knit community. Whether the kids play a sport when they reach the high school or not, it is important that they know the opportunity exists and they can still support their future classmates.

Col. Zadok Magruder booster club president Bill Leffingwell agreed.

“It is about getting and keeping people involved,” he said. “We want people to come back after their kids graduate.”