The Board of Directors of the Berkeley Unified School District has voted to cut $25,000 from the Berkeley High School athletic program for fiscal year 2005-06 and, over the objections of its bus driver union, has agreed to allow non-staff members to drive some school teams to athletic events under limited circumstances.
Both budget-balancing actions were taken at the board’s last meeting, held last Wednesday.
$15,000 of the BHS athletic program cutbacks will eliminate stipends for freshman teams in baseball, basketball, girls’ volleyball, track and field, wrestling, swimming, and soccer. $10,000 of the reductions will reduce safety and custodian overtime for football, basketball, la crosse, soccer, and baseball games.
All but $5,000 of the cuts are expected to be offset by an anticipated $20,000 grant from the independent, non-profit Berkeley Athletic Fund.
But asked for clarification by Student Board Director Lily Dorman-Colby, Superintendent Michele Lawrence said that “if the money doesn’t come in from the athletic fund, some low-level sports could be at risk for elimination.”
“That sucks,” Dorman-Colby replied.
In the athletic transportation issue, the board voted to change its policy to expand and simplify the use of volunteer drivers—such as parents or team coaches—to transport the district’s athletic teams to and from events. Most such transportation is presently being provided either by district bus drivers or contracted out to private vendors.
Lawrence said that because of the district’s precarious budget, “we were preparing a proposal to recommend either a play-for-fee proposal for student athletes, or cutting some athletic teams altogether. But because I wasn’t prepared this late in the year to recommend those changes for the upcoming school year, I asked [Berkeley High] Athletic Director [Kristin Glenchur] to come back with ways we could make savings and not cut teams.”
Lawrence said that the athletic transportation policy revision was one of Glenchur’s proposals. The revision is a policy change only, and did not include a detailed breakdown of possible budget savings.
A prepared letter from Stationary Engineers Local 39, which represents the district’s bus drivers, protested that the change in policy would compromise safety and cost union jobs.
Lawrence told board members that “no transportation personnel will lose their jobs as a result of the new policy, but some overtime will be curtailed.”
The board passed the policy only after increasing the age of private drivers from 21 to 25. Drivers who are also team coaches can still be as young as 21.
Board Vice President Terry Doran said he would “carefully monitor” the policy to ensure that if private drivers cannot be found to transport teams under the new policy, the jobs will be given to inhouse bus drivers rather than contracted out to vendors.