The Board of Education has been not-so-subtly hinting that a serious philosophical discussion around athletic funding needs to take place. As the board approved their budget, Christa McNamara proposed the addition of just over $100,000.

The reasoning was that the money would be used to make sure all sports at DHS are fully funded, as currently there are some sports that are not. These sports rely on contributions from parents and fundraisers to make up the difference. McNamara has been strongly pushing for the board to look at the way sports are funded, and other board members agree that it is time to reevaluate funding practices.

At the March 28 Board of Education meeting, what is typically a routine gift acceptance rekindled discussions around the funding. The board voted to accept a gift from Darien Youth Lacrosse, or DYLAX. Along with that gift, the board accepted the money that came from the boys lacrosse fundraiser. These donations go to both the boys and girls lacrosse teams. Within the accepted gifts is $1,000 for a team highlight film at season’s end, money for safety equipment, and other costs not covered by the school. Many teams have a highlight reel simply put together by parents at season’s end, and the board wondered about the need for a team to spend so much money on a highlight film.

The size of the gift spurred board discussion about equity for funding and fundraising for sports at DHS. Board members considered the possibility that acceptance of such a gift could result in potential Title IX violations. Superintendent Dr. Dan Brenner assured the board that such violations would not happen.

Other sports rely on smaller events like car washes to raise extra money. With the drought that has forced water usage restrictions onto the town still in effect, events like car washes have not been possible, and some sports have been forced to forgo fundraisers altogether.. The boys lacrosse team fundraiser was a silent auction held at Country Club of Darien.

The board asked Athletic Director Chris Manfredonia for data on just how much sports at DHS are funded by parents, donations, and fundraisers in the fall as the budget was still being developed. Upon learning that some sports were not fully funded, and others like ice hockey rely on money from parents to pay for ice time, the board first began speaking about their funding philosophy. Now, seemingly every time the board accepts a gift for athletics or deals with money for sports, the issue is raised, and the board agrees the discussion needs to happen soon.

Many of the gifts that the board accepts are first learned about in the fall, so it would seem that the summer, after budgets have been approved, is the best time for that philosophical discussion. The board is not aiming to take money away from any particular sport, but rather to ensure that teams at DHS are all fully funded, and done so in an equitable manner.