GUILFORD – Parents, students, and boosters are asking the Board of Education to include more money in the budget for sports, saying the cost to families was too high and the growing size of the teams required more resources.
With about a dozen cheerleaders behind her, Guilford Cheer Coordinator and Head Coach Alicia Raynor spoke at a meeting of the Board of Education’s Operations Committee on Wednesday convened to listen to community members’ requests for the 2024-25 school budget.
For the second year in a row, Raynor requested the Board add a varsity cheerleading team to the high school budget.
“We have almost 70 in first grade through 12th grade,” she said.
Cheerleaders came up and voiced their support for a varsity squad as well..
Cheerleader Maddison Harrington said it was hard for her initially to find the right group of people in her life until she was a cheerleader, while cheerleader Morgan Ross said the sport gave her something to look forward to after school. And Kaitlyn Faban, who moved from Alabama four years ago said that a varsity team would open opportunities for the cheerleaders like competitions and camp programs.
“We’re like a family here,” added cheerleader Sophia LaBelle. “More people would make it more successful.”
Adam Colon, a member of the Guilford Net Minders Organization, the booster club for the boys lacrosse team, noted that they, too, were growing “dramatically.” Normally, he said, the team had between 12 and 16 freshman players. This year, they were looking at around 30.
Colon requested funding for an assistant coach, as well as $1,200 for equipment.
“It’s a fast physical sport and an additional coach will help provide some of that development and safety,” Colon said.
Addison Smith, captain of Guilford Rowing Team, told the board that current funding for the crew team doesn’t begin to “prohibitively high” cost of $450 per athlete.
Smith said the team was requesting an additional $7,000 in the 2024 budget, which would drop the fees for players to $350.
“It’s critical to make our sport available to everyone,” she said.
Chris Ward, a booster for Guilford Boys and Girls Hockey, said that the decision to increase their funding two years ago meant that parents had to pay substantially less.
“Two years ago, voters increased funding to $13,000,” he said. “What it did; it dropped players’ dues from $1,400 to $1,170, which is huge.”
For years, he said, hockey was receiving a flat budget while costs kept increasing, requiring more efforts to raise money from families and fundraising.
Ward proposed increasing hockey funding to $25,000.
“We believe in fundraising, but we want to bring things to a better balance,” he said.
Jill Helgert, a football parent, and co-president of the Guilford Touchdown Club, the local booster club, asked the Board of Education to reconsider adding an assistant football coach position, which got cut during the budget process this last budget cycle.
And Buddy Gambardella, a player on the football team, asked for more funding for equipment, noting that last season the team didn’t have enough helmets to go around.
“Our team is 4 and 1 and on track to go to the playoffs for the first time since 1993,” Gambardella said. “We need proper equipment and to pay our coaching staff.”
Ken Alberti, president of Guilford Youth and Football Cheerleading, expressed his displeasure
with students and parents having to pay to attend sporting events.
“Charging students to see a game seems odd … I’m not sure there’s a reason for that. I’m not sure where that money goes,” he said. “Putting the burden on our students for them to attend athletic contests — that budget needs to be adjusted.”
Resident Nate Jacobson said that investing in athletic programs develops confidence, a sense of purpose, and a sense of identity, but that it should be the board’s responsibility to cover costs for the programs.
“Booster club covers coaching, transportation, and equipment,” he said. “It doesn’t seem right to me. My guess is fundraisers cover 40-50% of it. The rest comes out of the parents’ pockets.”
Sports funding wasn’t the only request made that night. Christine Dokko, who is a member of the High School Music Boosters, said that Adams Middle School needed a music teacher. And two parents at A.W. Cox Elementary School asked for additional teachers to decrease class sizes.
“Smaller class sizes aren’t happening at Cox,” said parent Elizabeth Galvin. “My daughter’s kindergarten just received its 20th student.”
Alicia Valentino, whose son, Max, was diagnosed with multiple vision impairments, requested funding for testing, training, and resources for special educators. She said her son has been responding well to occupational and physical therapy, and provisions by the school system would help continue to improve his skills.
“Consider increasing funding to related services that have helped my son and helped others,” she said.
A public hearing will be held Jan. 23 and 24 after the proposed budget is finished to get additional public feedback.