If the Weyauwega-Fremont Booster Club wants to donate $400,000 toward a new fitness center, it has to follow the school district’s Matching Funds Program.
That was the message from the School Board after it voted 6-0 Monday, Sept. 23, to rescind its motion and Memorandum of Understanding from July 22. Jim Stuebs was absent.
On July 22, the board voted 4-2 in favor of a motion to use $400,000 from the district’s Fund 10 balance to match the booster club’s donation of $400,000 in cash and equipment to the district for a fitness center.
The motion also included language for the appointment of a Sub Fitness Center Committee, charged with taking a further look at the fitness center proposal.
In addition, as part of the Memorandum of Understanding between the board and club, the district had the right to rescind the matching of $400,000 if the project exceeded the $400,000 it agreed to contribute. The booster club had the same right.
When Board President Doug Ehrenberg made the motion during this week’s meeting to rescind the July 22 motion, board member Sandy Smith asked, “So where are we – like it never happened?”
Ehrenberg said it means the district’s policy needs to be followed.
The Matching Funds Program, approved on Feb. 14, 2005, “encourages individuals and organizations to support student learning and co-curricular activities through a matching gifts program.”
The policy states the program will be funded annually from the Fund 10 reserve balance only, with any proposed matching funds projects in excess of $1,000 subject to board review and approval.
The guidelines for the program also include project proposal applications being submitted by contributing organizations or individuals proposing a matching fund gift no later than June 1 of the fiscal year prior to the proposed expenditure.
Smith said the program was brought up last year when the booster club presented the fitness center proposal to the board.
“One of the members said, ‘I understand you have a policy.’ They were well aware of the policy,” she said of the booster club.
The club was not told it needed to follow the policy.
Last November, the board voted to contribute $400,000 toward the $800,000 project if the booster club raised $400,000 by June 1.
The June 1 deadline was self imposed by the booster club, and when the club did not raise that amount by June 1, it asked the board for an additional six months to raise funds.
On June 24, the board voted to withdraw the motion it made in November, because the club had not raised $400,000 by June 1.
The board told the club to bring a new plan before the board in July, and on July 8, the club asked the board to decide by July 22 if it would match the club’s $400,000.
By then, the club had raised $341,000 and received an equipment donation valued at $59,000.
The $341,000 included a $130,000 loan through First National Bank.
A month after the board voted to match the club’s $400,000, a district resident asked why the Matching Fund Program had not been followed.
During this week’s meeting, district resident Jason Baehman spoke about the fitness center proposal.
“I stand in opposition of the continuation of the fitness center project,” he said. “I can assure you the opposition against it won’t go away.”
He asked why community members had not been surveyed about what kind of use such a center would get.
“There just seems to be a large, dark cloud over the project,” Baehman said.
He also questioned whether the booster club is a 501c3, saying the club has not filed its “financials in three years.”
In response to that, Booster Club President Tim Cullen said, “We did not file. We’re working on getting everything in line. We’re not perfect. We’re working on it. We were not aware of it until a few weeks ago. We’re working to straighten it out.”
In regard to the club’s fitness center proposal, Cullen said what the club is trying to do is unprecedented in the community.
“I don’t know if the school board had any group come forward the last 15 years wanting to donate money like this,” he said.
Board member Dan Kohl said no one had.
Cullen said the fitness center proposal is about health care and having a curriculum which teaches children about how to take care of their bodies.
When the board later discussed the motion to rescind the action it took on July 22, board member Debi Bartel said people should not assume this “means it’s over and done with.”
She said if the booster club wants to present the proposal again, it should follow the district’s policy.
Neal Loehrke said there was discussion two weeks ago about having a facilities study.
“I would say, ‘Do we have the space? What are the plans?’”
Smith said she would want to see a professional come into the district for such a study.
The facilities study being discussed would involve looking at whether the district has the space it needs for its various academic departments.
Kohl said the motion to rescind the July 22 vote “makes it look like we don’t know what we’re doing.”
Smith said she feels bad about the personal attacks made against members of the booster club.
“Let’s never let something like this happen again,” she said.
After the meeting adjourned, Cullen told the County Post, “We will go back to the booster club and make them aware of the situation and move forward.”
Students a priority
On Monday night, district residents asked the board to make educating students the top priority.
Rachel Loehrke, whose husband Neal is a member of the school board, asked why a full-time science teacher position was not filled after a teacher resigned and why students are driving to Waupaca High School to take an Advanced Placement Biology class.
Later in the meeting, Neal Loehrke said if students are already going to Waupaca for a class, families might just open enroll into that district. He worries about that.
Smith recalled sitting at board meetings and hearing board members ask, “Why don’t we have fewer teachers if we have fewer kids?”
District Administrator Scott Bleck said there are targeted numbers for class sizes.
He further stated he made the board aware some students might drive to Waupaca for the AP class.