Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hart district institutes booster club changes as Snyder faces charges

While former Valencia High School varsity baseball coach Jared Snyder faces felony charges he embezzled money from the school and from a booster club, officials say they are continuing to examine ways to tighten oversight of fundraising efforts in the William S. Hart Union High School District.

Hart district officials began reviewing the district’s fundraising programs last spring, according to Michael Vierra, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources. 

Snyder was placed on administrative leave in May after questions arose about the finances of the Valencia Diamond Club — the baseball team’s booster club.

Vierra said Friday the district has recently created a new audit position, which will have the responsibility to scrutinize fundraising activity and make sure “that everyone does things the right way.”

Additionally, the district is providing training to those who could be involved in fundraising, he said.

Board member Gloria Mercado-Fortine said those outreach and education efforts should extend to the community, as well.

“We need to provide a more structured type of training to parents and to the community,” she said Friday. “We certainly do not want to discourage their support and enthusiasm, but we really need to train them and educate them on what they need to do.”

Hart district board members said the district is also reviewing booster clubs and compiling a list that would make clear the booster clubs that are “following the policies and controls so parents can look and see whether or not the organizations their children are involved or engaged in are reviewed,” according to board member Steve Sturgeon.

Sturgeon said Friday such efforts have been in the works a few years, stemming back to some issues the district has run into with its Associated Student Body groups.

“Fundamentally, we had a continuing repetition of audit comments related to ASBs,” he said. “So, over time, we have attempted to provide tighter controls.”

Snyder, the former baseball coach, faces seven felony counts alleging he embezzled between $10,000 and $15,000 from the school and the baseball booster club over a six-year period.

Snyder, who was put on leave in May and resigned Dec. 3, was charged earlier this month with one count each of misappropriation, embezzlement by a public officer, embezzlement by a private officer, and four counts of grand theft. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Snyder situation led to questions about booster clubs in the Hart district. Some booster clubs are set up as 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, while others maintain private accounts.

More changes in booster club policy or practice could still be made, as Vierra said the district has worked to develop “a preferred approach that allows for best practices, including checks and balances and oversight.”

“I think we’re always looking at ways to improve,” he said.

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