School district ponders funding

Task force studies ramifications of outsourcing student activities

Posted: Thursday, March 01, 2001

What if somebody told you at work they'd be willing to do a project for you for free? The one catch is this person wants your name attached to the final project, no matter how it turns out. It'd be a risky proposition, right?

This is the type of dilemma the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District began facing Wednesday at the Borough Building in Soldotna at the first meeting of the Outsource Funding of Student Activities Task Force.

The aim of the committee is to set down guidelines for groups that would like to add an activity to the school district's menu by paying for it themselves.

Deb Germano, a school board member and chair of the task force, said the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is not the only place in the state dealing with this problem.

"It's another area where we're trying to balance what kids want with what we can do," Germano said. "If kids want an activity, and somebody else is willing to pay for it, how can we meet the needs of those kids?"

Although the task force aims to set down guidelines for any group, the groups that sparked the district into action on this matter are the baseball and fast-pitch softball teams from Homer.

Last year, a Homer club baseball team, sponsored by the American Legion and not affiliated with Homer High School, played games in the spring against teams affiliated with high schools.

The Homer team posted a 7-3 record and played against Colony for the Region III championship. The team fell to the Knights, but even if it had won it would not have been able to go to the Alaska School Activities Association state baseball tournament because ASAA doesn't recognize teams not affiliated with schools.

The Homer baseball group sought to rectify that in November by asking the Kenai Peninsula School Activities Association to add baseball as an outsourced activity at Homer High School. The team would be fully funded and insured by the American Legion.

KPSAA denied the request based on the following:

n concerns about the need for the program.

n Title IX concerns.

n funding concerns and concerns about the cost of administering such a program.

n the problem of adding a sport at just one school in the district.

n concerns about the condition of a baseball field in Homer in the spring.

n concerns about students missing additional time in class.

The Homer baseball team appealed to Superintendent Donna Peterson, and Peterson upheld KPSAA's decision in early December.

Finally, Homer baseball appealed to the school board and the school board upheld KPSAA's decision in mid-February. At the same time, the school board set up the outsource task force to investigate all of the unknowns of outsourcing an activity.

"That's what we were hoping would happen," said Homer baseball coach Lary Kuhns of the school board's decision to create a task force. "We would have been extremely fortunate if they would have just said, 'OK, go ahead and do it' without any guidelines to go by."

The task force, which includes representatives from the school district, the school board and the community, met for the first time Wednesday. The purpose of the meeting was to bounce concerns off Andrena Stone, an attorney at the Anchorage firm the school district uses.

Stone listened to the questions of the task force via the speaker on the telephone and will provide legal briefs to the task force before its next meeting on March 9. Among the concerns the task force has are:

n Liability -- Even though the Homer baseball and fast-pitch softball teams would provide their own insurance, Stone wasn't confident that an agreement could be written with the groups that would fully protect the school district of liability.

n Supervision -- ASAA's outsourcing procedures say the host school must have an administrator or designee at the contest. Also, each participating school must have a certified faculty representative at the contest.

KPSAA Executive Secretary Dave Spence, among others, is concerned this will mean more work for already busy administrators.

n Transportation -- ASAA also says a certified staff member or other person approved in advance by the principal or superintendent must accompany a traveling team.

Task force members want Stone to clarify what this means to the district.

n Teachers' contracts -- The contract the teachers have with the district has rules for the hiring and pay scale of coaches for district activities. Task force members want Stone to clarify what these contracts mean when it comes to coaches of outsourced programs.

In respect to coaches, Stone also raised the issue of how workman's compensation would work for outsourced coaches.

n Long-term questions -- The task force also wants to know whether having an outsourced program at one school could make the district vulnerable to having to pay for the same activity at another school.

If, for instance, there is fast-pitch softball in Homer, the task force wants to know whether Title IX could be used to force the district to pay for a fast-pitch softball program at Skyview.

n Confidentiality issues -- School board and task force member Joe Arness wants Stone to find out if the school district can legally give eligibility information to the outsourcing group.

After all the issues had been put in front of Stone, task force members were satisfied the group's headed in the right direction.

"We've got to have that legal advice before we begin any guidelines," Germano said. "Nobody thought we were going to come up with the solution in just one meeting."

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