Donations of $13,000 restore more San Juan sports programs

Purple and Gold, the Friday Harbor High School sports booster club, pledged $10,000 to restore all school sports programs Wednesday.

The gift was followed by other donations of $3,100, lowering the amount needed to eradicate the sports budget deficit to $10,000.

The donations came at a meeting of the athletic teams, coaches and parents, called by Superintendent Michael Soltman, to discuss ways to fully fund the athletic program for next year. No funding has been budgeted for golf, boys soccer, boys tennis, track, volleyball and wrestling, in the school district's efforts to meet a shortfall in its overall budget for 2008-09.

The shortfall, originally $600,000, is blamed by district officials on declining enrollment, the spending down of the district's fund balance, and the failure of the state Legislature to fully fund voter-mandated cost-of-living pay increases for teachers.

Fund-raising efforts led by the San Juan Island Community Foundation and the San Juan Public Schools Foundation have reduced the shortfall to $100,000.

Soltman pointed to the challenge to raise the remaining $10,000 required within the next week so all sports can be secured for next year. Sandy Guard of Purple and Gold said, “Donations to Purple and Gold can be made through board member Kim Blake at Whidbey Island Bank, or mailed to P.O. Box 3124."

Planning conversations were also started to form a longer-term funding solution for future years. Soltman said, “These athletic programs are important to the growth and development of our kids. We must develop a longer range plan to sustain these opportunities into the future." Donations should be given to Purple and Gold. All donations will be matched by the “Challenge Gift”.

Soltman also announced that the administrative team and district office employees have chosen to forgo the 4.4 percent cost of living raise and apply the savings to the matching gift. The superintendent, principals, special education director, and district office employees issued a statement declaring their “commitment to help to secure essential programs and services next year and to offer the legislatively approved raise as further cost savings in the amount of $32,000 and a match for the challenge gift.”

Soltman expressed his gratitude to the team for their personal sacrifice and leadership during this challenging time.

Charles Anderson, president of the community foundation, and Paul LeBaron, president of the schools foundation, are working to raise the final $100,000 in matching funds necessary to fully fund programs and services for next year. Donations can be made directly to the foundations and all donations are eligible for matching funds.

Further, the long-range planning task force has had its initial meeting to consider legislative advocacy for full funding of basic education. The task force will work through the summer to develop a long-term funding strategy.

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