Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

School Board reluctantly adopts new booster club guidelines

Keith Vandervort
Posted 4/11/18

ELY – Following a third review Monday night of new booster club guidelines for the Ely School District, board members reluctantly gave their approval to the new policy, as recommended by the …

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School Board reluctantly adopts new booster club guidelines


ELY – Following a third review Monday night of new booster club guidelines for the Ely School District, board members reluctantly gave their approval to the new policy, as recommended by the Minnesota School Board Association.

The document creates a foundation for interactions between the district and outside organizations that support district programs such as athletics. Examples of this support could include donating funds to pay additional coaches, organizing team events, raising money for team equipment or additional trips, supporting capital upgrades to district facilities and the organization and coordination of fundraising projects.

According to the new policy, the booster groups here provide more than $100,000 in funds and countless hours of volunteer service. “Our programs would not function at their current levels without the efforts and existence of these groups,” the policy said.

School Board member Tom Omerza, one of the most visible booster club supporters in the Ely School District, voiced his concerns with the payment of additional coaches and referees and umpires under the updated policy.

“In basketball, we shifted to a volunteer coach for junior high (level) and if I understand, that is an approved position and not a hired position,” he said. “The one coach we did pay this year we had to funnel through the school payroll. We paid the same amount this year but the coach netted far less because of taxes and Social Security. I struggle with the clarification. Is that person an employee of the school district as a volunteer coach?”

The policy states: “The school district controls the entire employment process including authorizing of a position, hiring, employment, renewal and termination. If a group offers a gift of funding for a specific school district staff position (such as a volunteer coach), it must be approved by the district and funds deposited with the district prior to the start of the hiring process.”

Ely Athletic Director Tom Coombe, said, “I was told that we are required to take taxes out if a person is coming through our payroll. I have also been told that a booster club cannot simply write a check for that person on the side. Could they do it without anybody knowing about it? Perhaps.”

He explained that athletics and other programs like music and drama, belong to the school. “The club is just picking up the tab, but it is still a program under our direction.”

ISD 696 Superintendent Kevin Abrahamson said, “With booster clubs, the money really should funnel through the school. This is a change in practice. The school district acts as the fiscal manager for those funds, and because of that, they are required to take out taxes.”

School Board member James Pointer wondered, if the volunteer coaches are being paid by the school, are they also covered by the district’s workman’s compensation insurance in case of injury.

Abrahamson answered, “To a degree, there would be some liability.”

Coombe noted the increased challenge he faces getting volunteers to run the clock or move the chains at games. “They get paid $25 or $30 as it is, and then they get taxes and Social Security taken out on top of that.”

Omerza reluctantly agreed to the new policy. “I’m not excited about it,” he said. “It’s fundraising dollars going to the government. Without those coaches and volunteers, there isn’t a program.” Before this year, coaches and volunteers were paid a stipend for their volunteering efforts.

Board members agreed to discuss the issue at the next study session, scheduled for Monday, April 24. “We can always make changes to the policy that we approve here tonight,” said Board Chair Ray Marsnik.

Other business

In other business, the board took the following action:

Approved the 2018-2019 annual premium of $131,129 as submitted by Valer Insurance;

Approved the bid of $196,250 by Mesaba Glass Window & Door Inc. for window replacement on the north side of the Washington Building;

Approved volunteer assistant coaches for the 2017-2018 season, baseball, Paul Kienitz and Chad Davis, softball, Adrianna Wittrup, Taylor Banks, Chad Ohlhauser, and Tom Omerza, and boys track, Dallas Stapleton;

Adopted resolutions relating to the termination and non-renewal of teaching contracts for probationary teachers Laurie Stewart Warner, Christina Weisel and Jason Limp;

Accepted the retirement of Brian Lamppa, physical education teacher effective May 31, 2018;

Accepted the resignation of Douglas W. Foster from his bus driver position, effective May 31, 2018;

Accepted the resignation of Brenda Olson from her part-time special education paraprofessional position at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.


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