By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Just a few seconds after hearing earlier this year that all sports at Red Bank Middle School were being dropped for financial reasons, the thought popped into Gene Horowitz’s head: he had to find a way to bring them back.
“Right away I was thinking, it’s too important to too many kids,” said Horowitz, who has two sons in the middle school.
So he started dialing up some heavy-hitters in town so they could all put their heads together and find a way to make it happen. The Red Bank Middle School Athletics Foundation met for the first time Wednesday night. It’s no longer a thought. Sports will return, Horowitz said.
“I’m just a parent who feels, OK, I know why this happened and I want to find ways to get it back,” Horowitz said. “So we rounded up a few people, and we’re going to get it back.”
The school’s athletic program, which included baseball, basketball, softball and soccer, was cut from the district budget earlier this year. Superintendent Laura Morana says that although sports funding will be a line item in the preliminary 2011-12 spending plan, it likely won’t make the cut, given a new 2-percent property tax cap and rising costs within the district.
So a group like the athletics foundation, comprised of parents, school officials and board members, is a must in order to give any hope of bringing back and maintaining athletics at the middle school, she said.
Horowitz’s goal is to make the athletics foundation a fixture. He intends to set it up as a non-profit and hold regular monthly meetings, taking the attitude that the sports program may never again be funded through tax dollars.
“My own opinion is this problem is not going to go away,” he said. “We can do wonderful things. There are a lot of things we can do over and above what was lost.”
Question number one: Where do you go to come up with $70,000 each year to bankroll sports?
That’s what the group talked about Wednesday night. Fundraising is certainly a logical option, but Horowitz said there may be opportunities for sponsorship, grants and donations to patch together a doable finance plan. And it is doable, he says.
The group already started mapping out ways to get two basketball teams together in time for the season, which starts in early December. However, if it can pull it off, the teams will have to be part of an independent league, because school schedules have already been set.
Wednesday night, after tasks were divvied out among members, Horowitz said that he had “such a heartfelt, good feeling, because when all is said and done, our kids are going to be happy.”
Member Ben Forest, who also sits on the board of ed, said forming the group was necessary for kids, and thanked Horowitz.
“It’s not just about fun. It’s about success,” Forest said. “They have to do this stuff to do well. We’re talking about lives here.”
To learn more about the athletics foundation or to give your input, contact the school district office at 732.758.1500.