June 21, 2018
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Alumni endowment efforts undermine stadium renovation fundraising, Bangor school leaders say

John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Clarke Russ | BDN
A rusted railing at Cameron Stadium, which is adjacent to the William S. Cohen School in Bangor.
By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Their hearts are in the right place, but the timing doesn’t work, Superintendent Betsy Webb said at a recent school board meeting about those who want to create an endowment funded by alumni to support school sports, clubs and activities.

Saturation is the biggest issue, she said, because the Friends of Cameron Stadium, a nonprofit group formed in 2010, is currently trying to raise $7 million to renovate Cameron Stadium and plans to tap Bangor High School alumni.

“If you continue to go to the same people over and over again, you put them in situations where they don’t want to give,” Webb said during the May 23 school board meeting, a video of which is posted on the city’s website.

Several attempts to reach Webb by phone and email this week were unsuccessful.

Webb read a letter from John Simpson, co-chairman of Friends of Cameron Stadium, during the May 23 meeting that said former Bangor High School students are the major source of funding and any additional fundraising efforts for a new endowment would “jeopardize any chances for raising several million dollars for Cameron Stadium.”

School board member Kate Dickerson first presented the idea for the endowment to the panel on May 9 and presented her full plan at the May 23 meeting.

“What I would like to do is try and fund some of the co- and extra-curricular activities we provide to our students K-12 through alumni donations so we can take that money out of the budget and put it toward teachers,” Dickerson told the panel on May 9.

Four residents spoke in favor of creating the endowment at the second May meeting, before Webb spoke, and four residents — one repeat speaker and three new — decided to approach the board at the June 13 meeting to voice their support of Dickerson’s idea.

Resident Jennifer Eastman said it doesn’t make sense not to at least look into studying the creation of an endowment and resident Terri Adam told the board, “These are things you do need to explore.”

Adam said Cape Elizabeth has created an endowment program that has added $900,000 to its school budget and asked why Bangor couldn’t undertake a similar program.

Adam also asked that a citizen advisory committee, which Dickerson attempted to create last year to look at alternative sources of educational funding, be created.

“Utilize us,” she said. “Let us parents go do the work.”

Resident Connie McVey said that “it seems like there is an imbalance of sports and nonsports,” with sports teams getting significantly more funding.

Julie Lisnet, an instructor of theater at the University of Maine, managing director of Robinson Ballet Company of Bangor and founding member of Ten Bucks Theatre Company, said she was upset when Dickerson’s idea was shot down.

“I was both disgusted and, to be honest, offended,” she said. “All that was proposed was to investigate the possibility” of creating the endowment.

Lisnet said three times — for emphasis — that she voted for Dickerson and told the board that, “When you deny her her vote, you deny my vote.”

After Webb’s May 23 presentation, several board members voiced support of the endowment but said their priority — and the city’s priority — is renovating Cameron Stadium. The panel voted not to move ahead with Dickerson’s idea, with her lone vote in support.

Warren Caruso, vice chairman of the school board, said it would be a mistake to create an endowment at the same time as the current capital campaign.

“I just don’t think the timing is right,” he said.

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