Salem R-80 needs to make sure booster clubs are following Missouri State High School Activities Association bylaws to avoid serious repercussions in the future, superintendent John McColloch told the school board Thursday night.
Earlier this month, the school district self-reported to MSHSAA that Salem High School’s softball booster club handed out cash to senior softball players, a violation of MSHSAA bylaws. Its case is scheduled to be heard by the MSHSAA board of directors Dec. 5.
An MSHSAA official recently told The Salem News that a ruling on the self-reported infractions is expected at that meeting, likely as a consent agenda item because it was self-reported and Salem R-80 is in the process of putting practices into place to prevent future violations.
McColloch assured the school board the district will take a pro-active approach to avoid a reoccurrence.
“The district will come up with some protocols, some rules that booster clubs need to follow to make sure they are following the bylaws for MSHSAA because, ultimately, it puts the district in a place of liability,” he said.
“I mean technically we could be kicked out of the organization and then we’re not playing any sports at all. So, we’re going to have to take a greater role in making sure those (bylaws) are being followed.”
Athletic director Phil Karr said booster clubs are considered a group or subgroup of the school by MSHSAA.
“It’s our responsibility,” he told the board. “Even if they break the rule, it will all fall upon us. We have to communicate the rules; we have to regulate them somewhat so we at least have a hold on it.
“We don’t want to make this mistake again because the penalty is severe – 365 days no sports.”
By-law 3.6.2 of the MSHSAA handbook states students cannot receive merchandise worth more than $250. Karr said any gift-bag purchases by booster clubs would need to go through the athletic director or building administrator “so we make sure they don’t exceed the dollar value in purchasing,” he said.
According to the letter sent by Karr to MSHSAA executive director Kerwin Urhahn Nov. 1, each senior received $500 cash, an individual picture and a sewn softball blanket from the booster club in violation of that rule. Karr says he warned a club officer prior to the presentations that such an award broke the rules.
Board member Larry Maxwell asked Karr what would happen if a booster club was advised of the bylaw and didn’t follow it. Karr said the district has the power to regulate the number of booster clubs.
“If one breaks the rules, the school has the authority to say ‘You’re no longer operating,’” Karr said. “The whole point is the schools do control the booster clubs.”
“And we haven’t been exercising that control very well,” Maxwell replied.
Karr said he had talked to a number of athletic directors about the issue.
“Most schools don’t have a lot of rules regarding booster clubs, but when something happens, we have no choice,” he said. “It’s happened, and we have to come up with procedures and policies and do everything we can to prevent another mistake.”
McColloch said he has been looking at constitutions and bylaws of booster clubs in other districts, Many of them have elected officers, keep minutes of their meetings and turn in financial information, he said.
“I’ll be contacting booster clubs, trying to set up a time and date to meet with them,” he said. “We’re going to start having a discussion on what this is going to look like going forward.”
Among the corrective actions listed in the letter were:
• A manual will be developed for all booster clubs, integrating MSHSAA policy into the document.
• The school will require a revenue and expense report from clubs annually.
• Rules for gifts and awards will be discussed at parent and booster club meetings, with the athletic director meeting with each club.