NORTH SMITHFIELD — After considering the number of different groups focused on school athletics and the potential for violations, the school district has made the decision to have one “club” as its only athletic program support organization.
At a recent North Smithfield School Committee meeting, the Northmen Athletic Club (NAC) was named as the one and only official athletic program “support” booster group for North Smithfield athletics
"There is no doubt that our athletic programs have benefitted tremendously over the years from the various athletic booster clubs and their dedication and hard work," School Superintendent Stephen Lindberg said in a recent online message to parents. "There has been a strong tradition of volunteerism and the additional support these organizations provided was often invaluable to moving a program forward. We have been fortunate to have had these clubs. However, as a school district, we have come to a different place, where Interscholastic League regulations covering amateurism, laws addressing equity issues, and requirements for financial record keeping, reporting and oversight of boosters, are mandatory."
Lindberg said the expectation today is that a school district must monitor and oversee “booster” activities, fundraising, financial records, and gifting, in order for the implementation of and adherence to school policy, regulations and laws.
The Northmen Athletic Club was founded in 2009 by a group of volunteers who share the belief that interscholastic athletics are a vital part of a public school education and who are unwilling to consider allowing funding for sports at both the middle and high schools to be eliminated.
For the 2010/2011 school year, for example, the school department was faced with a lack of available funds. As a result, all but six sports programs were scheduled to be eliminated until the NAC stepped forward and raised the $110,000 needed to fully fund sports.
This year, the club held several successful fundraisers, including a relay for sports and golf tournament in May and a 5k run in June.
Lindberg said the decision to designate the Northmen Athletic Club as the district's sole athletic program support organization results in several advantages, including unity, cooperation, planning, equity and efficiency.
"This will eliminate competition between and amongst booster groups and between athletes for various sports," he said. "The focus can change to working together as adults for all North Smithfield student athletes and programs. This is an opportunity to bring all fundraising together under one group. This first time ever coordination would bring a vision as to the quality and type of fundraising efforts as well as definition of a clearly identified purpose. This change will also lessen the burden on businesses and relieve them from being solicited by as many as 12 to 15 past 'booster' groups."
Lindberg said the success of the NAC initiative has shown that a different approach can be "successful, more open, transparent, and efficient."
"That success, combined with some of the reasons stated, including the sheer number of booster clubs and our limited capacity to meet the expectations to monitor them, make moving in this direction the best for all involved," he said.
The next meeting of the NAC will be on Wednesday, Aug. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Kendall Dean School.