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Academic boosters get high marks

August 20, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer

Band and sports booster clubs have been around for years, raising money to pay for uniforms, bus trips and the like for high school band members or athletes. Now, some groups are using booster clubs as a way to improve academic performance.

Washington County school officials say academic booster clubs not only can raise money for needed classroom equipment, but can provide expertise and guidance to students, such as those competing in academic contests.

At Williamsport High School, the Williamsport High School Academic Booster Association has put on the Shining S.T.A.R. and Rising S.T.A.R. academic awards programs and the countywide Academic Team Championship, officials said.

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At Smithsburg High School, a booster club organizes an "academic night," during which the school is opened to the public for an evening of musical performances, plays and academic competitions, school officials said.

"Boosters have helped us a lot in other areas, and I think it's starting to pay off in the academics," said Bill McKinley, director of secondary education for the Washington County Board of Education.

Debbie Carrier, past president of the Williamsport High School academic boosters club, said the group was formed three years ago to stress to students that academics are the priority "before these other things that we sometimes get involved with."

Among other things, booster clubs provide volunteers to help run academic competitions and other events. About 40 volunteers are on the mailing list for the Williamsport High School Academic High School Association, officials said.

Parents or teachers who have college degrees or expertise in certain areas can work as coaches or advisers to students participating in academic contests, said Richard Martin, principal at South Hagerstown High School, which is starting an academic boosters club.

"That's no different than the football coach teaching the different plays," said Martin.

At South Hagerstown High, teachers have been considering special academic programs for gifted students, and a booster club could be used as a way to lobby the school board for funding for the project, said South High Spanish teacher Bob Smiles.

Smiles said the booster club also could sponsor a college fair at the school.

About five parents and two teachers at South Hagerstown High are working to set up an academic booster club at the school, Smiles said.

The group will hold its first meeting Tuesday, Aug. 26, at 7:30 p.m., in the principal's conference room at the school, Smiles said.

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