By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Supporters of two youth sports teams - girls fast pitch softball and boys cross country - say they are raising enough money to finance the teams for three years, meeting a requirement set by Havre Public Schools before the school board would consider sanctioning the sports.
Both teams were told by district administrators last month that the district would consider adopting the sports only if they are supported by private funds and could prove that they have enough community support.
The fast pitch team was required to raise $65,000 in pledges, and the cross country team needed $10,500 in pledges for the district to place the issue on the July 13 school board agenda. Those figures were the estimated cost of funding the teams for three years.
The boys cross country team has surpassed its goal, coach Ron Watson said.
The girls fast pitch team has generated $60,980 in pledges, and expects to exceed the $65,000 goal next week, team supporter Mike Evans said.
"The next step in the process is a formal written request to the board of trustees," HPS Superintendent Kirk Miller said this morning.
"We're still two weeks away. This is the school board's decision whether they feel it's right to add those activities," he said.
Proponents of both teams unsuccessfully attempted in May to have their teams sanctioned by the school district. School board members and district administrators said HPS cannot afford to support the two teams.
After the board rejected the requests, the two teams asked the district to consider adopting the teams if they were privately funded.
"I've been working hand-in-hand with both of those organizations to establish what would be necessary for the board to approve the addition of those sports," Miller said.
Some of the key issues are ensuring the sustainability of the programs, and recognizing that the district will have control of the two sports, Miller said.
"Those activities must be run by the school district just like all of the other activities run by the school district, and that is something that both groups understand very clearly," he said.
Supporters of the teams say that although both teams compete against other high schools, without the district's affiliation those contests are considered nonconference, and students are prohibited from wearing HHS uniforms, participating in season-end tournaments and using district transportation. They also say participants are deprived of scholarship opportunities because many colleges do not recruit club players.
The success of the adoption effort by the boys cross country team is dependent on that of girls fast pitch. Because of federal Title IX gender-equity requirements, the school board can only approve boys cross country if it also approves girls fast pitch.
Title IX requires that schools have at least as many athletic programs for girls as for boys. To comply with that provision, in 1986 the school district was forced to either adopt a new girls sports or abandon an existing boys sport. Because there were no proposed additional girls sports at the time, the school board opted to discontinue boys cross country. The team was resurrected in 1999 as a club sport.
Evans said he has been working with Miller to develop a proposal for the school board.
"It's going to happen. It's a matter of having answers to all the questions the board of trustees might have," he said. "As close as we have worked with the school administration on this, we have a pretty clear understanding of the issues that need to be addressed."
Those include ensuring the sustainability of the program through future sources of income, and making arrangements to use a field for practices and games, Evans said.
The Havre Girls Fast Pitch Association has an agreement with the Sixth Avenue Softball Association to lease Sixth Avenue Memorial Field for $1 a year and a $300 annual maintenance fee, Evans said.
"We've been talking to those folks and we have a letter in hand. We're ready to go with one of the nicest softball fields in the state," he said.
Evans said he plans to meet with Miller this afternoon.
"The purpose is to update him on our fund-raising efforts and hand him our proposal so he can start his presentation for the July 13 school board meeting," he said.
So far, the team has generated 108 pledges from local businesses, families and individuals for a total of nearly $61,000, Evans said.
"It's going really well," he said. "The majority of the community has really been behind this."
The Havre Girls Fast Pitch Association is looking for alternative ways to raise money to support the team in future years, Evans added.
"We have a lot of ways to raise funds without soliciting from individuals," he said.
That may include gate receipts, concession sales and sharing income from sign sponsors at Sixth Avenue Field, he added.
Watson said he is amazed at the level of support shown by community members and businesses toward the boys cross country team.
"We've surpassed our goal," he said. "We're really excited for this to come in front of the board and bring this sport back into Havre High with their approval."