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St. Charles East

St. Charles booster restructuring nears final stages

St. Charles District 303 officials on Monday are expected to approve a measure that would streamline high school sports booster clubs from one per sport to one per school.

Some parents at St. Charles East and St. Charles North still oppose the move, but perhaps a slight change to the group’s name might help them forget.

Booster brass plan to replace “central” with “athletic” once the plan takes effect in a subtle effort to move away from the past. Call it one small step toward a wholesale cultural change.

“Central to what?” said Dana Wilson, treasurer of an organization still known as the St. Charles East central boosters. “I’m not sure that’s applicable anymore.”

Solving such minor matters marks the final procedure in a project that took root in November. The district commissioned a committee of booster members, parents, coaches and administrators from East and North to evaluate the booster structure at both schools while researching possible alternatives.

Tom Mullally, president of the St. Charles North Central Boosters, is excited to end the restructuring process and move forward on other day-to-day matters that temporarily were tabled.

One action that could be accelerated: a move to install artificial turf and renovate the track at St. Charles North’s stadium. Geneva is installing turf this summer, while regional neighbor West Aurora dedicated its new turf field early in the 2011 football season before a game against St. Charles East.

“That kind of initiative had been put on hold as we went into this whole restructuring of boosters,” Mullally said. “But it is out there, it is the next hurdle that we’ll have to take a look at. We need a turf field. Our football field is in shambles.”

Wilson and former East Central Boosters president John Payne said no turf talks were imminent on the other side of town.

Speaking at a May 29 meeting of the booster committee and school board community relations committee, District 303 Superintendent Don Schlomann outlined a plan in which the district would pay for essentials such as uniforms and equipment. In years past, when separate sports had separate booster clubs, some used fundraisers for additional uniforms or apparel.

Though the annual fee of $100 per player per sport would not be eliminated, the move would open the process of raising funds for bigger projects or non-essential items, such as turf.

The fundraising dynamic presents the biggest conundrum for many parents. Payne, who left his post late last month – with a few exceptions, terms typically last one year – believes parents might struggle to back an effort that supports the entire athletic program, not just his or her child’s sport.

Payne pondered attending Monday’s school board meeting, in which the board is set to vote on the streamlining measure, but for now is following his second thoughts.

“Those of us who supported the old system, we had no intent to be adversarial. We just felt the old system would have worked better,” Payne said. “We’re certainly not going to abandon sports at St. Charles East, I’ll tell you that.”

Per a document outlining the new booster club bylaws, funds will be maintained in two separate accounts pooled from each of the school’s sports. The first is a general account, including monies from larger or special fundraisers. The second is a concessions account.

In cases of “enhancements preferred by individual teams,” individual coaches and the school’s athletic director will review requests before the AD brings them to the athletic booster club, which will then hold a vote.

Fundraisers within individual teams would require AD approval before the matter goes before an executive booster board vote. Those funds are deposited into the individual sport’s student activities account, which are held in the treasurer’s office at each school.

Acknowledging that the new structure allowed for “fewer things to fundraise for,” Mullally stressed the continued support of parent volunteers. Just because the booster clubs are streamlining doesn’t mean the sports have been pared to one ticket taker or concessionaire.

“Parent involvement will still be there, it just won’t be in the form of, ‘You’re the president, you’re the vice president, you’re the secretary, you’re the treasurer of an individual booster club,’” Mullally said. “You’ll be part of a greater, bigger effort, but they’ll be just as important.”

Ultimately wishing the new venture well, Payne still professed he is “not going to be the one who puts the nail in the coffin of the old booster network.”

The former St. Charles High School used one booster club per sport, a practice that followed after the school split into East and North in the early 2000s.

Whether the new nomenclature of “athletic” over “central” helps, Mullally thinks time is on the new effort’s side. The cycle begins in the fall.

“All the new families coming in, this is going to the be the norm for them,” Mullally said. “It’ll be the only way that people know and remember how we operate.”

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