School district investigates softball “situation”

The William S. Hart Union High School District. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Despite a week of repeated requests to confirm whether or not the William S. Hart Union High School District received a formal complaint from parents of Valencia High School students about fundraising for the school’s softball team, District officials are now investigating the “situation.”

“This situation is being investigated and it will take time to review all the facts,” District spokesman Dave Caldwell told The Signal Wednesday.

Caldwell was asked on Apr. 25, after receiving an anonymous tip: “Has the District received a formal written complaint in the last two months about the way money raised by the Softball team booster club is handled?”

On Apr. 26, Caldwell told The Signal: “I have no idea on a formal written complaint and wouldn’t be able to comment on it if I did.”

After repeated questions about fundraising for the Valencia High School softball team, Caldwell told The Signal on May 1:

“Nothing is thrown in the trash can. Every complaint is taken seriously and brought to the appropriate person to handle it,” he said.

“If it is a school-level complaint, it will be investigated at the school level. If district personnel needs to get involved, whether it be a human resources issue, student services or the superintendent’s office, those people will get involved.

“But every complaint is heard. A decision regarding that complaint may not be to someone’s liking, but it is always heard, looked into and decided upon,” he said.

Was a formal complaint received by parents of some students at Valencia High School about the fundraising for its softball team?

The Signal is still waiting for an answer.

Questions asked Wednesday morning about whether or not – yes or no – the District was conducting an audit of the “situation” were not returned.

Raising money for high school sports teams became a thorny issue for the District in 2014 when parents of some students complained to the District, leading to an investigation and ultimately criminal charges of embezzling filed against the coach of Valencia High School’s baseball team.

Those parents are still reeling over the criminal arrest of former baseball coach Jared Snyder who pleaded guilty six months ago to one felony count of grand theft stemming from a criminal case rooted in fundraising for the baseball club.

The Snyder incident left District administrators wrestling over which “best practices” policy to pursue when it comes to money being raised in support of District sports teams.

Caldwell’s predecessor, Gail Pinsker, told The Signal in 2014, when news of Snyder’s administrative leave was announced that the District was working on “best practices” policy with regards to fundraising.

“The district has been reviewing these different mechanisms and is working to develop a preferred approach that allows for best practices, including checks and balances and oversight,” Pinsker said in a prepared statement.

On Apr. 26 Caldwell was asked by The Signal: “What is the District’s policy on booster clubs raising money for various sports teams and other school groups – ie. band and choir?

Caldwell told The Signal the matter is up to the school not the District, saying: “The schools oversee the conduct of booster clubs and their ASBs.”

Booster club organizers have two ways to run their clubs’ funds: under private accounts or registering as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The choice is up to the club founders.

Both bookkeeping methods are legitimate, district-approved ways of supporting school teams and groups, Pinsker pointed out in 2014.

Caldwell was asked which bookkeeping methods the Valencia Softball team uses and whether or not the school’s softball team has a booster club.

His response: “I don’t have the answers to those questions.”

As for Snyder, in November he agreed to complete 300 hours of community service and to pay the $14,129 in restitution to the Valencia High School before he is sentenced on May 9, 2018,” Jane Robison, former spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, said at the time.

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on Twitter @jamesarthurholt

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