After months of debating and dissecting its revised rules regarding use of the Malverne school's facilities, the Board of Education adopted the new policy last Tuesday night.
Although the board spent hours scrutinizing the language in the drafted policy during its January business meeting, one major issue still remained unsettled as the board held its final reading at the Feb. 12 meeting: Would organized teams be permitted to practice on the new articifical turf field?
Last month, the board had discussed limiting use of the turf by community groups to games only to minimize "wear and tear" and prolong the lifespan of the field, which according to Spiro Colaitis, assistant superintendent of district operations, is 10 years, depending on use. Replacing the turf field, which was installed in 2011, would cost roughly a half a million.
However, some members of the board and the public had pointed out that the district did not have the ability to restrict pick-up games and other unorganized groups from playing on the turf, so they questioned the logic in preventing teams who do have permits from practicing there also. They argued that organized sports teams have to have permits and adult supervision, making them more accountable to the district, so they are less likely to wear spiked cleats or engage in other activities that could harm the turf.
Trustee Danielle Hopkins asked that this aspect of the policy be revisited last Tuesday before the board voted. Fellow Trustee Josephine Bottitta then stated that she had changed her opinion on this matter based on the discussions at the last board meeting.
"If we can't monitor the general public from holding practices that are not being watched by anybody than I would be all for a team [or group] granted a permit to be allowed to practice on it," Bottitta said.
"It's a wear-and-tear issue," Trustee Gina Genti said, arguing that unlike a pick-up game, which may involve only 8 to 12 people playing over the course of two hours, organized sports leagues could have up to 300 bodies on the field. She added, "There is plenty of grass to practice on."
Michael Taylor, vice president of the school board and president of the Malverne Wildcats youth football program, which does acquire permits to use the district's fields, stated, "There should be no fields off limits as far as practices are concerned."
Taylor said the district is spending roughly $8K each year anyway to maintain its fields regardless of who plays on them.
After the board agreed to allow organized teams to practice on the turf field if they acquire a permit to do so from the district, Genti expressed concerns about how practice time would be fairly alloted. (There had been an issue last fall with CYO Soccer being barred from practicing on the turf.)
"It is soccer, so wouldn't you want to practice soccer on a soccer field?" Erica Taylor, a parent of a Wildcat player asked, questioning why the football program would have to split practice time on the turf with CYO. She added, "Why would we have seven soccer fields if you're not going to use them?"
Genti responded, saying, "The turf field is parked for three sports -- lacrosse, football and soccer ... If we are going to discuss practices, then let's be certain it's equitably distributed."
The board decided that all organizations will be allowed to apply for permits to practice on the turf and it will be up to Colaitis' office to make sure access to the field is fairly allocated.
Generally speaking, all organizations, for-profits and not-for-profits, can apply for permits to use district facilities under the new policy. Not-for-profits will be allowed to use the facilities free of charge provided they submit the neccessary paperwork to prove their non-profit status, but for-profit entities will have to pay a fee. However, this rule does have some exceptions.
To address another issue that arose last year, Bottitta asked the board's legal counsel how the new policy would handle situations where a for-profit entity partners up with a not-for-profit community group to charge for a service.
when Offense Defense, a for-profit football corporation from Myrtle Beach, S.C., teamed up with the Wildcats to host a two-day combine at the Malverne High School fields. Although the Wildcats is considered a non-profit organization, and therefore does not have to pay to use school district facilities, Offense Defense is a for-profit entity and was charging a fee of $45 for youth players, $55 for high school athletes who wished to participate even though they were using the district's fields free of charge through their partnership with the Wildcats.
Florence Frasier, an attorney for the district, explained that because Offense Defense did not generate a profit from running the combine in Malverne but only charged enough to cover its expenses, the situation was not in violation of New York State Education law.
Frasier said this exception could apply to any for-profit institution that wanted to use the district's facilities whether it be a dance studio or the NOGA soccer camp CYO hosts through a partnership very similar to the one the Wildcats has with Offense Defense.
As the policy states:
"The board may, to the extent permitted by law, allow activities that incidentally involve a private benefit or profit if the board determines that (1) such activity is in furtherance of a legitimate school purpose or provides a public benefit, (2) a fair and adequate portion of the proceeds is used for charitable or educational purposes, and (3) any private benefit or profit is incidental to such public purpose."
Such use would require board approval and comes with "several strong caveats," the board's attorney explained.
After sorting out these issues, the five trustees voted unanimously to approve the policy, which can be viewed in its entirety above.
What do you think of the new policy?