Warrior Way Inc. is off and running.
On Monday, the Brainerd School Board passed a resolution that School District 181 will cooperate and assist the non-profit corporation's mission of maintaining all current athletic and activity programs at the high school and middle school levels.
Following the failed referendum in November, administration proposed that an $860,000 reduction be made in high school athletics and activities and that all middle school athletics/activities be eliminated. Currently, about $1.1 million public funds those programs.
P. J. Smith, a member of Warrior Way Inc., a nonprofit organization created to help fund high school and middle school athletics and activities, spoke Monday night to the Curriculum/Student Activities Committee of the Brainerd School Board. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
If the proposed cuts stand, about 18 of the 29 high school athletic teams and all other clubs and organizations with paid advisers would be eliminated.
P.J. Smith, one of the nine members of WWI, outlined to the Curriculum/Student Activities Committee what his group proposes.
Smith said WWI's plan has four fundraising objectives:
Appeal to alumni for financial assistance. Alumni will be asked to help WWI network with businesses and individuals, inside and outside the community, to raise funds.
Meet with business people and key individuals in the community in an attempt to raise funds.
Meet with civic groups and organizations, asking them to consider sponsoring scholarships or grants for students.
Organize at least one community fundraising event.
"This is a plan that has come together through much discussion," Smith said. "Our group's role in this plan is to form a 501-C-3 corporation and to raise funds, which will be used to provide financial assistance to students who can't afford to pay their activity fees or possibly can afford to pay the activity fees but not without undue hardship.
"We anticipate the need for about $90,000 to about $110,00 per year in financial assistance. If we can reach an agreement tonight we're prepared to begin fundraising very soon."
Smith said the group's short-term objective is to meet the requirements set forth by the school board. Its long-term objective is to endow the annual funds that will be needed to meet student grants each year.
Two years of community funding will be due by April 1.
"If that deadline is not met, and the dollars are not there, then we will need to make a decision on what programs we will be able to offer," activities director Todd Selk said.
Selk outlined the district's proposed new funding model. It would maintain present high school and middle school athletics and activities by reducing public funding, increasing student fees, increasing gate receipts from events and the continuation of student fundraising.
New components of the district's funding model include implementation of fees for non-athletic activities that currently aren't charged a fee and creation of a community foundation that will help insure that all students, regardless of economic status, can continue to participate.
The resolution also proposes that fees for high school varsity sports will rise from the current $80 to between $340 and $390. Fees for athletes in grades 6-8 would rise from the current $50 to $155 to $195.
Selk said that in order to get a handle on 2008-09 participation, it will be proposed that registration for fall athletics and activities begin this spring, registration for winter activities next fall and registration for spring activities in the winter.
"At that time we would request that our students participating pay a portion of the new fee," Selk said. "That would help identify how many might be there. If they can pay a piece of the fee, that would show the commitment on behalf of students and families and allow us to make a decision on that program for the following season."
Currently, participants in athletics and activities register two or three weeks before their seasons.
"I want to thank you for all the work you've done," board member Bob Nystrom said. "This is really great that a group from the community would come forward and do this."
"It's a very ambitious goal, but thank you for undertaking it," board member Ruth Gmeinder said.
Superintendent Jerry Walseth said the athletic programs proposed to be cut have not been publicly identified. Initially, he thought Brainerd might be able to only keep 11 sports.
"As we work through all the issues Title IX, (Minnesota State High School League), district policy - it appears we would have to keep 12 sports to hit all of those legal requirements," he said. "We would be prepared to make those recommendations to keep those when we find - and hopefully this will not be a conversation we have - that the funding model is not being able to hit their target.
"That does not change our need to balance the budget and we will come forward with a difficult recommendation to consider for reductions in the athletic department. We would only do it at that point."
Walseth added that "the issue is whether the community can hit the target. As much work as you folks have done, it will take a tremendous amount of support from this community to meet these goals. We wish you luck.
"On behalf of the administration, I want to thank each one of you for that effort. They all have full-time jobs and have taken on this full-time challenge. We appreciate that greatly, on behalf of kids."
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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