BARAGA - The Baraga Booster Club presented revised bylaws to the Baraga Area Schools Board of Education at the regular board meeting Tuesday night, but several board members expressed concern about them and the operation of the club.
The board had requested some revisions be made after after a bylaw draft was presented at the March board meeting, and four booster club representatives returned Tuesday to explain some revisions during public comment period at the beginning of the meeting. The booster club approved the bylaws last Wednesday.
After board president Byron Sailor told the boosters the board would review the revisions and make a decision in the future, club representatives left the meeting. However, board member Bill Stark briefly left the meeting to talk with booster club members in the hallway outside the library, and Stark brought the issue back up at the end of the board meeting.
Stephen Anderson/Daily Mining Gazette
Baraga Area Schools Business Manager Sue Wilson, center, gives a financial update to the board of education during its regular meeting Tuesday night. Jon Young, grades 3-12 principal, left, and secretary Michele Velmer listen in.
"The reason I went out there is because I spent some time (reading the bylaws) and I wanted to talk to them about it and in a nice way let them know there's a lot of problems with this and the board won't pass it - without speaking for the board, of course," Stark told the board. "I couldn't advocate signing this. ... I told them I'd work with them to clean it up, and then maybe give (the board) a copy in a couple of weeks."
Stark detailed several minor errors in the bylaws before pointing out an even bigger red flag in the liability clause.
"No Baraga Booster Club Board member or members of this organization shall be personally liable for the debts, liabilities or obligations of the Baraga Booster Club (sic) the Baraga Booster Club Board members or the members of the Baraga Booster Club shall be held harmless to the extent and in the manner permitted by law," read the clause.
Stark said if the club spent $10,000 on athletic equipment and couldn't pay for it, that problem would fall to the board, as would any liability issues.
"There has to be some responsibility," he said. "If they're working under the school board's jurisdiction, then you may want to put some restrictions on how they can spend their money."
Board member Tracey Barrett, who is also a booster club member, didn't think it was a concern, and pointed out that fundraising was the primary objective of the club, similar to the band booster club. The board acknowledged that the band booster club in the past has not had the same liability issues as those faced by the sports boosters club.
"Band boosters are basically just there to raise money," said board member Gale Eilola. "The (sports) booster club supports elementary basketball and that tournament involves liability."
The elementary basketball tournament has run since 1995 and is the main fundraiser for the sports booster club. The club has also raised money for athletic jerseys, weight room equipment, a concession stand and bleachers, among other things.
"I was on (the booster club) when we first started it and to tell you the truth, I can't remember how we came up with those bylaws, but we really didn't go by them and I know we never had them approved," said business manager Sue Wilson. "We first started the booster club to raise money for the bleachers and our big money maker was the elementary (basketball) tournament."
Some suggested having the elementary basketball tournament organization be separate from the sports boosters, to eliminate liability concerns. Then tournament funds could be transferred to the sports boosters.
"If it separates from the basketball tournament, even if it's their own bylaws, they still need to clean this up, and I'm willing to help with that," Stark said. "We don't want to discourage the booster club. They're here for the school and here for the kids. We want to encourage them."
Stark will work with the club in the next few weeks and the exact relationship of the booster club, the elementary basketball tournament and the school board is yet to be determined.