Beverly Hills High: From Rodeo Drive to Fund-Raising Drive

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Beverly Hills High will drop its boys' golf program and a lower division squad in five other sports--football, baseball, boys' basketball, boys' soccer and girls' softball--if it is unable to raise the necessary funds from a yet-to-be formed booster group, Athletic Director Jack Dyck said Monday.

Assistant coaching positions in football, track and swimming are also targeted for elimination in a $30,000 athletic department budget cut.

"Everybody is obviously disappointed," Dyck said. "Ultimately the children are going to be the ones who will be penalized and suffer. We need to take responsibility and fund the program some other way."

Dyck said he plans to mail letters to parents of athletes this week and hopes to hold a meeting next week to organize a booster club that would "investigate creative ways of fund-raising."

The cutbacks follow the defeat of a parcel tax measure on the June 4 municipal ballot. The $250-$750 tax would have brought $4.3 million annually to the Beverly Hills Unified School District.

Despite Beverly Hills' international reputation for affluence and a much-publicized on-campus oil well, its schools have experienced financial troubles in recent years. After the failure of a 1990 parcel tax measure, the district laid off 41 teachers and dozens of other employees as part of a $2.5-million cut.

A $1.26-million deficit is projected for the 1991-92 budget, with layoffs of 11 teachers and 21 other employees planned.

Several factors have contributed to the fiscal woes, including declining enrollment, insufficient funding from the state, the 1978 passage of the property tax-cutting Proposition 13 and the Serrano Decision, which ruled that California's method of financing education primarily through local property taxes was unconstitutional.

"The bottom line is that the school district does have very serious financial problems at the present time," Supt. Sol Levine said. "The fact that we have cut some $7 million out of the budget since 1984 is indicative of that. The common notion is there are not or should not or will not be financial problems in the schools in Beverly Hills, but that is not the case at all."

Norman baseball Coach Bill Erickson is confident about achieving fund-raising success, but feels the need to solicit funds may create other problems.

"If you go out and start trying to raise the money, I'm sure it eventually can be done in this community," said Erickson, who raised $5,000 this season for a batting practice cage for his team's practices at La Cienega Park. "The problem is where do you draw the line? How much time do you devote to raising money? You have to teach five classes and expected to coach.

"Baseball, football and basketball are pretty much year-round situations, and the school district pays you for three months and you're basically working 12.

"Now they say if you want your program to be competitive with every other school you play, you have to go out now and raise 33% of the revenue for the sport. I will do what I can do, but I think eventually it will cause a lot of people to say it isn't worth it and cause people to move on or leave coaching."

Beverly Hills has lost three coaches from two major sports in just over the span of a year. Co-football coaches Bill Stansbury and Dick Billingsley accepted other positions before the defeat of a 1990 parcel tax measure. Both cited the district's uncertain financial future among their reasons for leaving.

Dyck stepped down as basketball coach last month after 12 seasons on the job, but will remain as athletic director and a physical education teacher.

A specific reorganization of lower division teams has not been made. It is expected freshmen will have to compete with older students for positions instead of having a separate squad for their grade level.

About 155 athletes annually participated in the programs scheduled to be dropped, Dyck said. The actual number of students impacted is less because some were on more than one team.

Although most of the cuts are not at the varsity level, two coaches fear the elimination of lower division programs will eventually cause varsity teams to be less competitive.

"A lot of our kids have played a real limited amount of baseball (coming into high school) and that extra year helps acclimate them," Erickson said. "When your only baseball experience has been in a local park with a volunteer who doesn't have the expertise a full-time coach does, you lose out on all that.

"Now, if you're a good ninth-grader you'll have to compete against 10th- and 11th-graders, that's a huge jump. Having a 14-year-old compete against a 17-year-old is basically unfair."

Football Coach Carter Paysinger has already seen the district's cutbacks affect his team. Because seniors have to take five periods of class per day instead of six and can leave school at 1 p.m., "six or seven players who would have contributed," decided not to play football last fall.

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