When clubs and modified sports were axed from the Clarence School District budget last year, the community jumped in to help.
And has it ever.
The Clarence Schools Enrichment Foundation – created by district parents in the wake of last year’s tumultuous budget season – has reached its goal of raising $145,000 to restore the district’s 13 modified and freshman sports, as well as 33 middle and high school clubs.
The sports and clubs were gradually brought back during the school year, as the foundation raised the money in stages through donations from several hundred Clarence families, teachers, businesses and boosters.
The final check was to be presented at the Clarence Board of Education meeting Monday night in time for the start of the spring sports season.
“What the foundation has accomplished this year is nothing short of amazing,” said Clarence Superintendent Geoffrey Hicks. “It is literally hundreds of students that have been impacted positively by the generosity of our community and the hard work of the Enrichment Foundation.”
The money for clubs, as well as modified and freshman sports, has been put back into the district’s draft budget for next year.
But the foundation will continue to work on providing extra educational funding for the district, as Clarence gets squeezed by a property tax cap on one end and a decline in state aid on the other, said Victor Martucci, president of the foundation’s board.
“Frankly, we think the model for funding public education has changed,” said Martucci, a Buffalo lobbyist. “They can’t raise additional money from the property tax, and they’re getting aid cut, so what are we going to do about it?”
A proposed 9 percent tax hike in Clarence stirred up the community last May and brought the school budget down to defeat. While the approval of a second-chance budget avoided devastating district cuts, clubs and modified and freshman sports were still among the casualties.
A parent-led movement started the nonprofit and raised a total of $144,228 to restore the sports and clubs.
The $39,000 raised by last August was enough to save modified and freshman teams for the fall season.
The September gift of nearly $33,000 restored 10 groups, including high school drama club and middle school show choir.
In October, a check for more than $35,000 reinstated winter athletics, including freshman and modified basketball and modified wrestling.
The $17,000 given in November brought back several clubs at the middle and high schools, while more were restored with the $4,000 given in January.
Now, the $16,048 handed over to the district Monday is the sixth and final installment, said Dawn Snyder, vice president of the foundation.
It restores freshman baseball and modified girls and boys lacrosse, middle school intramurals and the middle and high school marching bands for the Memorial Day parade, she said.
“This final gift completes our mission to restore the programs eliminated last spring,” Snyder said. “We only could have achieved this with a tremendous community outpouring, which included more than 500 families, local businesses, booster clubs and Clarence teachers.”