When James Jones paid $20 to park at Flanagan High School during the recent Chili Cookoff, he assumed his money would help the cash-strapped district buy new books or supplies.
He was wrong. The school did not receive a dime of the $6,106 raised for the use of its property. Instead, $2,699.65 went to the school's football booster club; $1,200 went to Pembroke Pines police for security and the rest — $2,206.35 — went straight into the pockets of seven school employees who oversaw parking.
"It's ridiculous," said Jones, 20, a sophomore at the University of Tampa who graduated from Flanagan in 2008. "The teachers don't make enough as is. The students are dealing with books and things that are outdated. The money should go back into the Broward County School Board so they can use it for students and teachers. It's not fair that they are pooling the money for themselves.''
While the district allows "school-allied" organizations, such as booster clubs and PTAs, to host fundraisers at schools, it does not specify how money raised is to be spent.
The seven who parked cars earned between $12.33 and $34.07 per hour and said they each worked 15 hours, although the cookoff ran only from 10 a.m. to dusk, and police said it dispatched patrols from 6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Bernie Kemp, president of the Broward County Council of PTAs/PTSAs, said every school event run by PTAs — which, like the booster club, are school-allied groups — is staffed exclusively by volunteers.
"We are not getting paid a penny," said Kemp, "because the funds are being raised to benefit the children and for leadership training. We strongly advise that PTAs are not to pay people to work fundraisers."
The car attendants at the 25th annual Chili Cook-off on Jan. 24 included Athletic Director Larry Brown (paid $511.05); Julie Nicholson, a clerk; ($212.40); Donald Simon ($457.65) and Erin Pashley ($440.10), both physical education teachers; Mike Osinska ($176.85), who works for the adult vocational program; Marvin Jackson ($223.35), a substitute teacher; and Nicholas Lippert ($184.95), a campus monitor.
Paige Warnock, president of the Falcon Football Booster Club, could not be reached for comment, despite four messages left at her home. The club supports the school's football and cheerleading programs.
Reached by telephone, Brown referred all questions to school Principal Sharon Shaulis, who in turn directed all inquiries to the Broward school district.
"School booster clubs have historically served a viable and meaningful role in supporting school athletic programs and activities throughout the district," said Nadine Drew, a spokeswoman for the Broward Schools.
She declined to comment on whether the district thought the booster club should have paid school employees to oversee the parking. The district does not track how much school-allied groups raise or how they spend their money, Drew said.
The Chili Cook-off at C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines drew thousands of country music fans. With the streets around the park roped off for the event, the Flanagan High employees told the school district they parked about 300 cars at the school for up to $20 each, according to the district.
Jones and other witnesses said there were at least 500 cars parked around the school, which would have netted as much as $10,000. The school district says, however, that the booster club lowered the $20 parking charge as the day progressed.
It is not clear how the group monitored the number of cars parked and the fees charged.
The Falcon Band Sound Alliance, the booster organization for Flanagan High School's Band and Color Guard, does not pay its workers to run fundraising events, according to one of its members.
"As a parent, I would have a problem with that," said Michele Way, an accountant whose three daughters graduated from Flanagan High over the past five years. "They should get people to volunteer for the event. It seems like a conflict to me that you would have coaches and others at the school working the event."
Jennifer Gollan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-572-2083.