The lack of oversight of booster clubs by the Fayette County School District leaves all coaches and band directors susceptible to situations such as the one that resulted in criminal charges against former Paul Laurence Dunbar baseball coach Mickey Marshall, Marshall's attorney, Jim Morris, said Monday.
Booster clubs, made up of parents and coaches, are private organizations that support sports, cheerleading and bands in Fayette County public schools by raising millions of dollars for equipment, travel and other expenses.
Fayette County does not provide those things to students involved in extracurricular activities.
“Any coach in Fayette County needs to be careful in taking any benefit from the booster clubs,” Morris said.
He said that's because the district offers so few guidelines to the clubs, but Fayette County School Superintendent Stu Silberman disputes that contention.
“Fayette County hands off control and responsibility solely to the booster clubs, and booster clubs are the direct results of Fayette County deciding not to fund extracurricular activities,” Morris said.
“What we have is a train wreck where there is no oversight,” he said. “Athletics are becoming bigger than academics.”
Silberman said the district does provide oversight and mandatory annual training for coaches and at least one booster club officer.
“We have guidelines that we expect to be followed and, along with the guidelines, we have a code of ethics,” said Silberman, who added that he could not speak of the Marshall case specifically.
“Anybody who follows those guidelines is not going to have a problem,” he said.
Marshall has been charged with three felony counts of theft. The booster club and a donor wrote Marshall checks totalling $12,500, and booster club officials allege that the coach did not use the money the way they intended.
In an interview last week, Marshall said he did nothing wrong.
Lexington attorney Jim Lowry confirmed Monday that he is representing Marshall in the criminal case.
Morris said Monday that he is handling the civil legal matters involving Marshall's suspension from his job as a teacher at Dixie Elementary Magnet School.
In Marshall's view, Morris' problems involving the booster club should not affect his job as a teacher.
Morris said that booster club “payments to coaches go completely unchecked” by the district.
“When things are going good, there are no questions,” Morris said, “but when a group of parents has an issue with playing time or positions, parents can exhibit a tremendous amount of control.”
The district pays the salaries for a head coach and a specified number of assistant coaches. There is a salary scale for staff who take on extracurricular activities, and booster clubs cannot pay coaches more than the scale calls for, Silberman said.
In another check on booster clubs, district officials — including an athletic director hired to oversee booster clubs — review the financial statements and a list of officers from each club, Silberman said.
Booster-club training offered by the school system covers financial guidelines issued by the state Department of Education, as well as athletic guidelines governing questions such as how many assistant coaches may be hired, Silberman said.
The guidelines “are very clear on what can and can't be done,” Silberman said.