Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Boosters' full clout rallied for Meck
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Shanna Flowers is The Roanoke Times' metro columnist.
Shortly after Randy Meck informed his coaches March 8 that he was resigning as athletic director for Cave Spring High School, the communication apparatus of the Cave Spring Booster Club shifted into high gear.
"The coaches came to me and said, 'We've got to do something,' " booster club president Terri Langford said in a telephone interview Sunday, recounting the recent events that embroiled the Southwest Roanoke County community and likely cooled Monday evening with the voluntary hiatus of Superintendent Linda Weber.
The series of events that transpired next and the results they yielded illustrate the power of booster clubs and why the Cave Spring coaches knew who to turn to.
As word spread about Meck, who says he was forced to resign for standing up to Weber, Langford was bombarded with calls, e-mails and faxes from people claiming they worked under a fear factor brought on by what they characterized as Weber's intimidating management style.
That evening, Langford sent out a community e-mail saying she would schedule a public forum to air concerns about the circumstances that led to Meck's resignation -- details to come. The next morning, March 9, Langford called the high school to reserve the library.
The support for Meck continued to flood in, and Langford called the school back the morning of March 10 to tell school officials she needed the auditorium.
Last Wednesday, a week after Meck's resignation, supporters packed an open forum coordinated largely by Langford.
The head count: 543.
Before Weber's surprising decision Monday, she faced a formidable force as she confronted an effort that had the backing of the booster club, an influential organization on high school and college campuses across the country.
"This isn't about athletics," Langford said before Weber's announcement, emphasizing that the booster club was merely the conduit for coordinating last week's meeting. "This is about education, and about how you have teachers who can't bring stuff up."
Even so, and I have no reason to doubt Langford, the fact that more than 500 people turned out points to Meck's apparent appeal -- and the booster club's ability to deliver them on a midweek school night.
"There's no doubt that in today's world, booster clubs have more clout because the need for them is more than it used to be," said Scott Smith, a sports management professor at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant.
"We used to depend on booster clubs to fund extras," Smith continued. "In today's world, more and more they are being looked at to fund the essentials. It's that need issue. If you have to have the booster club, that inherently makes them a little more powerful."
Steve Beden, of the North American Booster Club Association in Kennewick, Wash., said state and federal dollars for school extracurricular activities have decreased by 30 percent in the past 10 years, yet "the costs are getting larger."
That's where the nation's 1.3 million booster clubs -- most at the high school level -- come in. Beden said the average club raises between $20,000 and $25,000 a year, with a few topping $1 million.
"Parents can become very passionate," he said. "They can step up and produce the rewards."
At Cave Spring, which has 31 sports teams, Langford said the booster club raises more than $100,000 a year by selling everything from Christmas trees to cookie dough to concessions at Martinsville Speedway.
Langford, who joined the boosters eight years ago and became president five years ago, said projects that the boosters have funded in recent years include renovations to the weight room and boys' and girls' locker rooms.
Langford, who is a cabinet designer and mother of a 2002 Cave Spring graduate and has a son who is a senior this year, said Meck worked closely with the boosters. As far as Meck's resignation, the public knows only his side, and school officials aren't talking, saying the matter is a personnel issue.
Langford said Meck's supporters and frightened teachers brought their concerns to the boosters last week because of "trust."
"They know we will follow through."
Shanna Flowers' column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.