The real cost of falling donations

Already maligned programs take further hit from digitized Falcon Fest packets.

The school’s attempt to go paperless during the annual Falcon Fest registration process in August came with an unexpected price tag for programs across campus: decreased donations. This is on top of state laws that prohibit public schools from charging parents for their children’s participation in activities such as sports and asks schools to seek donations instead.

According to principal Greg Louie, the switch to an online registration system was in part due to environmental concerns. In the past, Falcon Fest packets contained tens of flyers and forms, leading to immense paper waste.

The administration also hoped that families would have an easier time in accessing forms on the school website and donations on the school’s web store.

However, the school has rethought its decision and will mail out paper copies of all the forms to families this month in an attempt to increase donations to various programs, Louie said. 

Programs on campus have been affected in different ways by the trend of falling donations in recent times.


Athletics: Inadequate donations can result in sports canceling team dinners, buses and team apparel, athletic director Tim Lugo said. In addition, the cost for coaches, transportation and officials are being handed to directly teams instead of being covered by overall donations, he said. Lugo said that the athletics program continues to need much more support from parents.


Music: So far, the music program has only had to make minor cuts because of funding shortfalls, such as holding fewer performances and sending the marching band to fewer competitions.  Music director Michael Boitz credits to the strength and organization of the Music Boosters for the program’s continued overall financial health.
Without the Booster program, which provides resources for everything from clinics to instruments to repairs, Boitz said, the music program would no longer be a “performance program” but simply a “regular classroom.”


MAP: The MAP Booster program has seen contributions fall  despite efforts to a decreased recommended donation, said MAP Booster board member Arati Nagaraj.
MAP coordinator English teacher Suzanne Herzman said that the program also relies heavily on contributions in order to fund its many field trips, including the junior year Los Angeles trip and the senior year capstone trip. If contributions were to run too low, Herzman said,  MAP would be forced to go on “lite” versions of field trips rather than give students a full experience.


Drama: The smaller Saratoga Theater Arts (STA) Booster group has also faced a decline in donations, but surpluses carried over from previous years allowed the group to continue activities as normal, according to drama Teacher Sarah Thermond.
Thermond said that STA continued passing out paper forms at events like Back to School Night and the fall play parent meeting, the STA still didn’t get as much funding as previous years. STA has been forced to ask itself if this decline is temporary or “an indication of a trend that would require [STA] to budget differently,” Thermond said.


ASB: Money shortfalls have affected the ASB, which has witnessed a drop in ASB package sales from 980 to 765 this year in part due to a website glitch. As soon as the sales for the packages went live, the website crashed and families could not buy them online, which drove sales further down, activities secretary Anna Ybarra said.
ASB Treasurer Rohan Rao said that most of the ASB’s funds come from the package, and so ASB has had to cut costs. Reductions in off-campus dances such as winter formal and proms are among the consequences.
In the future, the school plans on making the ASB package cheaper by removing some unpopular items such as the water bottle and backpack, Rao said.

Journalism: Lower demand for ASB Packages, which include a pre-ordered yearbook, have created a challenge in deciding how many yearbooks to order from the printing company, said journalism adviser Mike Tyler said. There has also been decreased participation in the Falcon newspaper’s PTSO-affiliated subscriptions, Tyler said, from 500 in a typical year to just over 200 this year. The PTSO has said this dropoff was because of the change to a paperless Falcon Fest.


Speech and debate: Speech and debate has seen a steady decline in donations that might cause the coaches to cut a few programs, according to head coach Erick Rector. Another alternative is cutting travel tournaments from the program. Currently, the funding goes to paying coaches’ salaries and fees for league tournaments.


Other solutions on the horizon?

Jana Marashian, executive assistant to superintendent Mike Grove, said bond and parcel tax measures have been implemented to increase shortfalls in funds in the past. Typically, bonds are used for construction and facilities, while parcel taxes are used to “keep class sizes down,” Marashian said.

However, district funds are not being used to supplement the student-centered programs at Saratoga High and only provide minimal support, Marashian said. Instead, the district intends that programs rely on fundraising and donations.

Boitz said that he hoped that the district could provide more support to programs navigating the challenges presented by lower donations and one-time difficulties such as the adjustment to a more paperless registration system.

“We need to get the school district and the communities both Los Gatos and Saratoga on the same trail of momentum to help build that awareness in the community,” Boitz said. “Only then is it only going to get better for everybody.”

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