Raj Batra did not hesitate to pay hundreds of dollars for his son to attend what he thought was a summer sports training session put on by Beverly Hills High School.
His son wanted to make the cross-country team, and here was his chance to meet potential teammates and learn from coaches. The money spent, he believed, would support the school's sports teams.
What Batra didn't know was that the Beverly Hills Sports Academy is a for-profit business, owned by Principal Carter Paysinger and operated by two other school employees.
The academy charges from $200 to $385 for the monthlong training session. None of the revenue goes toward the athletic teams at Beverly Hills High.
Many parents say they were encouraged to enroll their children to get a leg up in making sports teams during the school year. Now they question where their money went and contend it is a conflict of interest for public school officials to profit off the athletic aspirations of students.
"I thought it was a sanctioned program by the school itself because it was promoted as such," Batra said. "We thought it was mandatory — I feel hoodwinked."
Paysinger repeatedly has declined requests for comment.
Beverly Hills Unified School District Supt. Gary Woods, however, said he thought it was appropriate for administrators to run a business on campus that caters specifically to their own students.
"It's acceptable when educators are working beyond their school days and contracted hours to benefit our students," he said. "I believe we have a duty to make sure our students are prepared for pretty strenuous athletics."
The Beverly Hills Sports Academy takes place each June and is "designed to provide a comprehensive summer conditioning program for the Beverly Hills High School student athletes," its pamphlet and program application say.
The academy focuses on "cardio, fitness, sports specific terminology and team building," according to the pamphlet. It is a "great opportunity for students to participate and experience high school athletics in their sports of choice!"
Participants are charged for each clinic — such as basketball, football, even dance — that they sign up for. Daily sessions run an hour and 45 minutes each.
The academy attracts about 300 athletes out of the approximately 800 at the school, according to the district. It was started in 1997 by Paysinger, who was the school's athletic director at the time. He registered the business name Beverly Hills Sports Academy in Los Angeles County, listing himself as owner.
A business tax application — a requirement to do business in Beverly Hills — has never been filed for the academy, according to Jose Zaragoza, revenue operations investigator for the city.
Paysinger currently is listed as the sole owner of the academy in county documents, although Woods said the principal was in the process of removing his name and is no longer involved with the business.
"He has duties and obligations that are 12 months in duration and pretty involved," Woods said.
Howard Edelman, a physical education teacher and former track and cross-country coach, and Jason Newman, a co-athletic director, handle the day-to-day operations of the camp.
Edelman and Newman, through a district spokeswoman, also declined to comment.
Rebecca De Mornay, whose daughter attends Beverly Hills High School, said that at an orientation meeting for parents of incoming ninth-graders last year, Paysinger mentioned the academy and spoke about how beneficial it was for students.
"I thought it was sponsored by the school because the principal was telling us about it in his introduction to the parents," she said. "I thought the money I was giving was going directly to the school."
The connection between the summer sports academy and the school's principal emerged after parents protested the dismissal of a popular track coach. The coach had proposed a different training option for track athletes but was rebuffed by school administrators.
Parents have launched an online petition, asking for a review of the sports academy.
Woods said he had thought it was clear to parents that the academy was voluntary and separate from the school.
"If it is confusing, I'm sure we can look at ways to make it not confusing," he said.
And not attending the academy, he said, has absolutely no bearing on whether a student will make it onto a sports team. Woods added that he had not heard any complaints about the camp during his two years with the district.
The superintendent estimated that the academy takes in between $60,000 and $70,000 a summer. With overhead costs of paying coaches, facilities fees and other expenses, he said, administrators of the academy make only "a couple thousand dollars per adult, per summer to do this work for the kids."
"It is not a big profit or moneymaker," Woods added. "This is not a profit endeavor, this is a service."