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Endowment 'Clears Air' on MHS Sports Field

Robert Schatzman downplays foundation's role in fundraising for proposed Warrior Athletic Complex

The president of the Manasquan High School Endowment and Alumni Foundation last week stopped by the Board of Education's regular meeting to help "clear the air" on what board officials have described as misinformation regarding the group's fundraising efforts for the proposed Warrior Athletic Complex. 

Robert Schatzman, the foundation's president, last Tuesday said that the foundation "has done little" to raise money for a proposed $2.9 million renovation of the high school's athletic complex. 

Board officials have previously said that the foundation was willing to pledge $300,000 for the project, but earlier this month it appeared that a dollar amount never was defined.

Board President Michelle LaSala at last week's meeting said that the school district, from here on out, would have to lead the fundraising efforts and formulate a concrete plan for the project before pitching prospective donors.

"We realize that this is a project that really needs to be driven by the school district, and that the school district should be looking at donations from [the endowment] as being generous and assistance, but not relying on any private funding to fund something of this magnitude in its entirety."  

LaSala said that previous stories in the media seemed to paint a picture that the board was not grateful for the endowment's past efforts. That, she said, is anything but the case. 

"I think a lot of this [misinformation] is innocent inaccuracies, is what I call it," Schatzman said. 

The foundation's primary purpose is to help students through scholarships and other support, Schatzman said. 

Last year it spent $10,000, he said. 

"So in the kind of scheme of things, versus a $25 million [school] budget, it's relatively small," Schatzman said. 

The main obstacle facing the endowment's fundraising efforts was the lack of a concise plan regarding the field and, if any, commercial opportunities, such as naming rights on the concession stand, he said. 

"That is a commercial transaction, that is not a donation," he said. 

Another concern among potential donors involved the question of whether or not the new complex would contain a baseball field, Schatzman said. 

"The bottom line was there was a lot of pushback on taking away a field to include a track," he said. "There has to be a definitive answer about baseball." 

Ultimately, those decisions fall on the school board, Schatzman said. 

"I think there's been this sense that the foundation has had a far more pervasive role as it relates to a very important decision about the field than we really have," he said. 

In June, Thomas Bauer, chair of the board's Buildings and Grounds Committee, presented three options to the public: a $300,000 plan to eliminate the cinder track at the High School and redo the sports fields with natural grass; a $650,000 plan to eliminate the track and build a synthetic turf football field; and a $2.9 million plan rolled-out in four phases that would include new baseball and softball fields and lighting at the Elementary School, and a new regulation track, synthetic turf football field and bleachers at the High School. 

The board since then has not decided in which direction to proceed. 

"In all fairness, [the endowment has] made great efforts, and on the board side of it, since the project started, there's never been a clear direction given to them from the board," LaSala has said. 

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