Last Monday’s public forum regarding the proposal to restructure Dexter’s Athletics program was well-attended by coaches, booster club representatives and parents. Superintendent Chris Timmis, Athletics Director Mike Bavineau and CFO Sharon Raschke presented the details of the proposal and answered questions, staying behind after the meeting to speak further with individual attendees.
How We Arrived at Today
AD Mike Bavineau began the forum with some background on the Athletic Ad Hoc committee and their charge from the Board of Education. The committee consisting of 20 coaches, staff and parents met frequently during the past two years to review and make recommendations to the BOE regarding 1) athletic offerings and the structure of funded and self-funded sports, and 2) the creation of a financially sustainable and Title IX compliant District-wide athletic program.
As part of this process, Dexter’s coaches and Athletics staff held a summer retreat to discuss the program and determine core values. They created a ship’s wheel visual entitled, “The Helm,” with eight spokes, each representing a core value: Unite and Engage, Student-Athlete Experience 365, Innovate and Create, Persistence in Purpose, PhD in Team, Champions Live Here and Integrity Always. Bavineau stressed that the “PhD in Team” concept is extremely important and one the coaching staff is always striving to instill in student-athletes: valuing the unity of the team above all else.
A second visual originated at the coaches’ summer retreat, one that details the characteristics Dexter expects of their athletes using the acronym RISINGTIDE: (Dexter athletes will show) Resiliency, Integrity, Selflessness, Interdependence, No Quit, and Gratitude (and will be) Tough, Invested, Driven and Enthusiastic. Many teams have already adopted this acronym, using it on social media and the ice hockey team has put it on the back of their uniforms.
Bavineau explained the current tiered pay to participate structure and how it has created inherent inequities among sports and athletes. Under the current tiered system, athletes can play the same sport but pay a different fee based on the timing of their season and whether or not they’ve played another sport prior. This inequity occurs with both school-supported and self-funded sports. This current system also creates “significant management challenges” for the District in terms of budgeting, scheduling, transportation and logistics.
In addition, when the District began adding self-funded sports about 15 years ago, they intended that those sports become school-supported after they were well-established. Dr. Timmis stated that this never happened, and there is currently no mechanism to move them to a funded sport. At this time there are 6 girls (field hockey, water polo, lacrosse, competitive cheerleading, dance and equestrian) and 3 boys (water polo, lacrosse and ice hockey) self-funded sports.
Dr. Timmis mentioned that at the last forum, the discussion focused on pay-to-participate fees, and upon further review the committee determined that the only way to truly address the issues facing the Athletics program is a complete revamp of the department structure.
The final issue addressed during the slideshow presentation was the inequity of Dexter’s coaching salaries in relation to other school districts. Currently, every district in our conference pays their coaches between 30% to 125% more than Dexter. Coaching salaries were cut by 20% about 10 years ago, and 8 years ago the District added back 10%, but since then there have been no further adjustments.
The Ad Hoc committee’s proposal to restructure the Athletics department features three recommendations, to 1) move self-funded teams to school-supported, 2) move pay-to-participate to single-tier, and 3) restructure coaches pay.
First, with the exception of ice hockey, dance and equestrian, the committee recommends that all self-funded teams move to school-supported under the Athletics umbrella. The reason for the exception is that these teams compete mostly off-site and most are not governed by a Michigan athletics-regulating body.
Moving teams to school-supported means that all uniforms and equipment will become DCS property, all team funds/accounts will be managed by DCS and all team purchases will go through the Athletic Office. Team money will not be placed in a larger Athletics pot; each team will have their own account and the money they bring in will be only for their team’s use. In response to a question about purchasing restrictions, Bavineau expressed confidence that as long as purchase requests are reasonable and follow school policy, there should be no problem with approval.
The second recommendation is to move the pay-to-participate fee structure to a single tier, families paying $250 per high school sport and $150 per middle school sport with a family cap of $1000. There will be a mechanism in place for families to request reimbursement for any fees exceeding the family maximum.
“What does my $250 cover?” is a question asked by many Dexter parents. Bavineau explained that the $250 per sport equates to approximately $1 per hour for practices and competitions/games. The current pay to participate fees offset program costs and accounts for only 24% of the Athletics budget. 67% of the Athletics budget is subsidized from the General Fund and 9% comes from ticket sales. Adjusting the fee to $250 per sport will increase that percentage to 28%, which is not a significant increase and would decrease the general fund subsidy of Athletics by 3%.
Full and half scholarships will still be available for student-athletes in need, requests for which will be granted by the Athletic Director. Money to cover these scholarships will be fundraised by the Athletics Department and possibly the Athletics Booster Club of Dexter (ABCD). All those student-athletes on the Free and Reduced Lunch plan will automatically receive scholarships.
Following Bavineau’s presentation, Dr. Timmis took the reins to elaborate on the specifics of the Ad Hoc committee’s proposal. When discussing budget costs for Athletics, Timmis stated that the District is always balancing what is spent in the classroom versus athletics. “It’s all part of the same bucket, and we try to put every dollar we can into classrooms.”
Dr. Sharon Raschke, CFO, went through the fund information for teams, reiterating that all money raised and brought in by teams will remain with that team. Moving self-funded teams to school-supported will help the District account for how money is being spent on Athletics, which is essential for Title IX compliance.
One parent asked if the pay to participate fee of $250/$150 will stay with individual teams, i.e. would the $250 a family pays for cross-country be deposited into the cross-country account? Timmis replied no, that each $250 fee goes to the Athletics Department to offset the costs of running the overall program.
If a self-funded team chooses not to move under the Athletics umbrella (with the exception of ice hockey, dance and equestrian), they will no longer be awarded DHS varsity letters, cannot use the Dexter name or logo and will have to pay to rent practice/game facilities.
Lastly, the committee recommends the adoption of a new coaching pay schedule, which will raise coaching salaries to a commensurate level within the conference. Current coaching salaries total $240,000 (plus payroll taxes), and the committee recommends raising them to $372,000 (plus payroll taxes); high school coaches accounting for 75-80% of the total cost. Varsity Head Coaches and Middle School Head Coaches with 8+ years of head coach experience may also earn an additional stipend. The $372,000 number is the highest possible budget if all coaches are at the top of the scale, which is not currently the case. At no time in the last 25 years has the District had every coach at the top of the salary schedule.
In total, the proposal to restructure the Athletics program will cost the District an additional $180,000 in general fund subsidy. While this may seem like a large increase, Dr. Timmis reminded attendees that after reviewing the program for the past two years, the committee determined that, “the only way to address the problems is by addressing it all at once, and there’s no way to do it without additional money.”