SOS releases $600K to schools
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
In the midst of a harsh financial winter, the state's 45 public high school athletic departments received some much-welcomed sunshine this week in the form of checks from the Hawai'i High School Athletic Association's SOS (Save Our Sports) campaign.
Since its kickoff on July 23, 2009, the SOS Fund has raised $1,428,882 through contributions from businesses, foundations, unions, individuals and events/promotions throughout the community. The money is intended to help the public schools offset budget cuts that left them operating with less than 64 percent of their state allocations for 2008-09.
HHSAA executive director Keith Amemiya, who has spearheaded and overseen the campaign, released $600,000 that was distributed this week based on a formula that accounts for the size of each athletic program and student participation.
Wai'anae athletic director Glenn Tokunaga said his school's share was $13,000, most of which will be used to cover transportation costs for the winter and spring.
"We only got $8,000 (from the state for transportation) for the whole year, and that pretty much only covered the fall (season)," Tokunaga said. "So this (SOS check) came at a good time."
O'ahu Interscholastic Association executive director Dwight Toyama said most of his 24 member schools were in the same situation.
"Now is the time a lot of them are getting billed for the fall sports, the invoices are coming in," Toyama said. "But the transportation budget got cut in half last year, so most of their (transportation) money has been depleted already."
Along with the transportation cuts, state allocations for equipment and supplies also got cut in half.
Waipahu athletic director Stacie Nii said the cost to recondition football helmets and pads for her varsity and JV programs is $5,800.
While some schools try to supplement athletic department shortfalls through parent-driven fund-raising, Nii said that can be more difficult in blue-collar communities.
"The cost of school lunch went up, too, and if a family has three kids or more, it's getting harder," Nii said.
Toyama said the budget cuts also included a $700,000 reduction in coaches stipends.
"This (SOS contribution) replaces some of what we lost," Toyama said, "but there's still more."
Amemiya said the public schools' current situation confirms that all SOS contributions are answering a need in the community.
"On behalf of all the public schools, I want to thank the businesses, foundations and the general public for their generosity," Amemiya said. "Their donations ensure that the sports programs for the rest of the year will truly be saved."
Amemiya, who announced his pending resignation in November, was officially confirmed yesterday for his new job as interim executive administrator and secretary of the University of Hawai'i Board of Regents.
Kaua'i Interscholastic Federation executive director Dianne Nitta, chairperson of the HHSAA's search committee to replace Amemiya, said the committee will interview a final list of "no more than five" candidates next week.
The application deadline was Jan. 4, and Nitta declined comment on the number of total candidates. The search committee of more than a dozen people includes educators and members of the business community.
"We hope to hire someone by mid-February, hoping they can start by March 1," Nitta said.
Amemiya's last day is March 6.
Interscholastic League of Honolulu executive director Don Botelho has been selected as chairman of an HHSAA committee formed to investigate the possibility of setting statewide guidelines on the amount of time athletes should be required to practice for school sports.
A written parent concern was brought up at a previous HHSAA executive board meeting regarding the amount of time athletes spend practicing every week, raising questions about academic and health risks.
The NCAA already has guidelines limiting practice time for college athletes on a weekly basis.
"We'll work with the trainers and look into it," Toyama said. "The NCAA has guidelines, and maybe it's time for us to look it, too."
Read his blog on high school sports at http://preptalk.honadvblogs.com.