A new policy that requires Marietta City Schools volunteers to have criminal background checks could devastate the volunteer base of the district's athletic boosters, the booster president told the Board of Education Monday.
The board approved the policy this school year, requiring checks that cost $30 per person and flag felonies and violent misdemeanors in the last seven years. The money funds the process and does not go to the district.
Marietta Athletic Boosters President Steve Riley said the policy change could destroy the organization, which depends on 300 to 350 volunteers and supports seventh-through-12th-grade sports.
"This is a very big deal to us," he said. "It could very well mean the future of the boosters organization."
Riley said he's gotten a poor response from volunteers about the new policy, with some concerned about paying for the check but many concerned with privacy issues.
Even if the boosters paid for the background checks, there are many volunteers unwilling to have them, said Riley, who also questioned whether they were truly necessary for those who only volunteered at concession stands and had limited contact with students.
5:30 p.m. Nov. 22, Board of Education offices on Academy Drive.
Marietta Superintendent Bruce Thomas said he felt the fairest and safest way to institute the policy was to have it apply to anyone who had any contact with children because otherwise there would be many chances for exceptions.
"My obligation to the parents and the school board is to keep everyone safe," he said. "I don't know how else to do this."
Thomas said building principals have set up funds for volunteers not able to afford the background check.
"We've turned no one away," he said. "But objections on other levels, I'm not sure how to deal with."
If a volunteer goes through the process, no one in the district has access to any of the results other than if he or she was approved or not, Thomas said.
Riley said his concern is that a core group of volunteers will now have to keep the boosters going on their own.
The organization raised $227,000 in the last two years and 77 percent of that was through the volunteers manning concessions and helping at events, he said.
The boosters help fund 20 sports programs in the district and have taken on large projects including putting in venue lighting and sound systems and bleachers and purchasing land for softball fields.
"These are people volunteering their time," Riley said. "If we ask them to pay and ask them to do this, it gives them a reason to say no."
Board members said they were sympathetic to the possible problems but that safety had to be the priority.
"If we make an exception for this and an exception for this, if something happens to one of our kids then we'll be asking why we did that and why we didn't follow what we said we were going to do," said board member Bill Hutchinson.
Board member Wendy Myers said she hopes the volunteers will continue to volunteer and support the students.
"This is something that may not be in the best interest of the adults but it is in the best interest of the kids," she said.
Also at Monday's meeting:
The board approved a five-year financial forecast that predicts deficit spending each year and a deficit of $12 million by fiscal year 2015.
That's largely due to state aid being lost as well as rising expenses, said treasurer Matt Reed.
The district is expecting at least a 5.5 percent cut in state funding next year and no increases for the next three years, he said.
"I think this makes it really obvious why the levy we have on the ballot next week is very important," he said.
The district has a 6.38-mill levy on the Nov. 2 ballot that would generate $2.75 million a year for the school system.
Marietta High School Assistant Principal Chad Rinard will also be serving as the district's Energy Education Specialist, following board approval Monday.
Marietta City Schools had entered into a partnership with Texas-based Energy Education Inc. in July.
The company does an energy audit and trains employees on how to reduce energy costs without purchasing additional equipment and it is paid with the money saved. It's predicted the Marietta district could save $1.9 million in 10 years.
Rinard, who will now be leading the effort, will earn $13,000 a year in the position.