The term booster may carry some unwanted baggage at the college level, but to high schools around Bulloch County, booster clubs can be a godsend when it comes to funding the extracurricular activities of their students.
"As a school district, we are allowed to help supplement salaries for those who perform duties beyond the classroom such as athletic coaches," said Dr. Lewis Holloway, superintendent of the Bulloch County school system. "What we cannot pay for are the incidentals that come with extracurricular activities such as sports or the band."
Specifically, Holloway said that the school district is unable to pay for things such as equipment, uniforms, meals for players, and sending students to camps to train.
"We have been able to build new sports facilities at our high schools with SPLOST funds that had been specifically designated for that purpose and approved by the voters," he said. "We cannot use any SPLOST money to fund the actual operation of sports, bands, or academic events."
Holloway said that is why the role of various booster clubs at each of the area high schools is so important, as well as the Friday night football games that highlight every fall.
"If you have ever been involved with a sports program, or a band program, then you know that they can be very expensive to run," he said. "For instance, a new football helmet is $200, and old ones have to be refurbished each year at a cost of $60 per helmet. We have to buy 36 tournament basketballs at Statesboro High per year at a cost of $150 apiece. At each of our high schools, there are athletic and band boosters, and they are vital in raising the funds necessary for these programs."
In the 2009-2010 school year, the Bulloch County Board of Education provided $326,739 towards the costs of coaching supplements and extra contracts. Athletic gate revenues for the three high schools totaled $134,598. Advertising revenues for programs and sponsorships, in addition to concessions added another $111,687. Holloway said, above and beyond those dollars, another $500,000 must be raised by various booster organizations to cover program costs.
Each high school has a different formula for booster participation. At Portal High School, the chief organization for fundraising is the Portal Middle High School Unified Booster Club. First year president Rose Ogelsby said the organization raises money for athletics, academics, and the band.
"In the last few years, we have been able to purchase uniforms for every sport in both the high school and middle school," Oglesby said. "In addition, we have bought bats and balls, signage, mats for the cheerleaders, as well as band equipment and uniforms. We also have two scholarships that we award each year."
Ogelsby said it is very hard work that requires a lot of volunteers. "I did not realize until I got involved with the boosters that money had to be raised to pay for all of these things," she said. "I just assumed it was part of a school's budget that was allocated to them. It really is all worth it, to see the look on a student's face when they put on that new uniform, or use that piece of equipment, or receive that academic trophy."
Statesboro athletic director Dr. Ken LeCain said he has 13 teams to consider funding. "I feel as if each one is one of my children," he said. "You want every student to have the opportunity to participate in sports, and some sports don't generate any revenue. Therefore, you have to go out and raise the money to support them. With the cost of equipment soaring, we pray that it will work out each year, and it has, thanks to all of the community support that we receive."
LeCain said there are 1347 students at Statesboro High School this year, and there will be approximately 650 student participants in activities that require extra funding.
"You can see that that is a large percentage of the school's population," he said. "It's a big undertaking, and you have to make sure that everyone is taken care of."
Mike Rollins has been involved with the SHS Quarterback Club for several years. The organization raises money to support the Statesboro High School football program.
"I was the president of the organization for a number of years and am still a member of it, because my children have been on the football team," he said. "We raise around $50,000 a year to help support the program. You have meals to pay for, equipment, uniforms, some travel expenses, camps, etc." I don't think most people realize that a new football helmet is $150."
In addition to the Quarterback Club, Statesboro High School also has an Athletic Boosters club, Band Boosters Club, and Academic Boosters club.
"We are all trying to raise money, for all of the right reasons, that is why Friday night football is so important," he said. "At a home game, the band at SHS handles the concessions and that is a huge fundraiser for them. The ROTC helps with parking and seating, and they are paid for that. The Quarterback club sells sponsorships and ads. Most importantly, all of the revenue goes back to student programming."
Holloway said there really is an army of dedicated volunteers at each of the local middle and high schools.
"Every ticket and hot dog that is sold has to be done by a volunteer," he said. "We have so many opportunities for our students from drama and chorus, to band and athletics, and much of it is made possible by volunteers, and their willingness to dedicate their time and effort."
No officials or volunteers with booster clubs at Southeast Bulloch High School could be reached for comment.