Try as large school districts might, sometimes it’s just not possible to create budgets that meet 100 percent of the needs that each high school athletic program has.
Take the 22-high school Dallas ISD, where the district works to fund schools of different enrollments – from Conference 6A down to 3A. The district-funded budget that 6A Skyline receives differs significantly from what a 4A school such as Hillcrest receives.
At every level, budgets sometimes fail to meet all of a specific school’s basic needs. In most cases schools turn to their local booster clubs, such as the Hillcrest Athletic Association, to close the gap between what’s provided and what’s still needed.
“We strive to raise money to supplement where the school district’s budget falls short,” Hillcrest Athletic Association membership chairman Chris Sandoval said. “Inside Dallas ISD, budgets are allocated based on the enrollment. The 6A high schools get a certain level, then the 5A and so on. As a 4A school, we are several tiers below what those 6A schools get.”
In a given year, Sandoval said, DISD might provide enough funding for the football team to replace its set of home jerseys, but not the away jerseys. The same funding conundrum holds true for other sports and their needs.
In order to fully support its student-athletes with needs that range from basic – game jerseys – to aesthetic – landscaping around the school’s fields or items most neighboring districts consider staples such as an inflatable for the football team – the HAA works to raise money through concessions and sponsorships.
Sandoval said the club works with athletic director Jacob Ramon to evaluate and prioritize the requests that come from each team.
“We talk about the obvious things that are basic needs of each program,” Sandoval said. “If there is a specific ask from a program, the AD lets us know who needs what.”
Essential needs come first. If funding remains beyond those needs, the club looks at requests for things that help Hillcrest’s programs measure up to the competition.
“We want to close that gap between what our athletes have and what the schools we are competing against have,” Sandoval said. “That’s part of why we’re working to get an inflatable [for the football team]. We played at Alvarado, and they have a tunnel to run through and we don’t. It’s things like that where we want to close the gap.”
The club also pays for an all-sports athletic banquet, during which it awards a $1,500 scholarship to a male and female graduating senior.
Throughout the year, the club – which includes approximately 35 members – makes sure that each game the school hosts has a staffed concession stand. Parents of spring sport athletes work the stand during football and volleyball games; fall sport parents work during basketball, baseball, soccer and softball games.
The HAA consists of both parent members and Hillcrest alumni who’ve returned to support their alma mater. That connection convinced Sandoval to join when his oldest son enrolled a few years ago, and it motivates him to create a similar connection for other families.
“I want to give back to the school that provides a great high school experience for my son right now and for my 8th grader who will be there next year,” Sandoval said. “I want to keep things going for future parent involvement. We hope to pass on what we’ve done and continue to grow our membership. The more people we can get to join, the more we can do for our athletes.”
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