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Raising private donations to support high-school sports programs is a fact of life in many Ventura County communities. But it's a double-edged sword that requires clear policies and careful oversight.
Locally, some booster clubs raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in a single year. Many more schools have boosters who generate smaller but still considerable sums, often amounting to tens of thousands of dollars annually.
This fundraising springs from a natural desire of parents and others to help fill gaps in athletic programs that are beneficial for children and teens. So the donations are generally commendable but some schools and athletic programs have decided to limit or not allow booster clubs because of unhappy experiences.
As The Star reported recently, school administrators felt compelled to clamp down when some boosters tried to exert undue influence on coaching decisions or other matters that went beyond purely fundraising.
"Boosters do so much that is good, but unfortunately there are some who believe that what they do comes with a sense of entitlement," Dave Hess, athletic director and assistant football coach at Ventura High School, told The Star. "No good is ever going to come of that. All it does is produce conflict inside a program."
Clear-cut boundaries are essential for boosters to succeed in their mission to help high-school sports programs and not complicate the jobs of coaches and administrators.
The Star's special report by veteran writer Loren Ledin also found that school officials generally recognize the importance of financial accountability rules to promote transparency and security.
Common procedures require checks to be signed by at least two people; require a booster club's bank to send the monthly account statement to a third person who doesn't disburse funds; require two or more people to count and report the money collected at concession stands and other places where cash is received; and audit accounts at least annually.
Such steps are enforced with the awareness that a few club volunteers have succumbed to temptation and pocketed funds for personal use. It is shocking and disheartening when such scandals occur, and many unsung heroes devote countless hours to following and overseeing the procedures necessary to prevent such incidents.
From beginning to end, there is much hard work involved in raising funds for school programs and ensuring the donations are used properly. We commend those who devote themselves in this way to help schools and the community.