A group determined to start a football program at the Oley Valley School District recently delivered $41,000 to the school board.

Andy Gruber, president of the Oley Valley Football Alliance, promised to contribute more than $54,000 over the next four years.

At a combined committee meeting earlier this month, Gruber presented a plan and a check that would establish football at the middle school for the 2007-08 school year. Under the plan, Oley Valley would make its high school varsity debut in 2010.

"The time is right," Gruber said. "The kids want to play. If our plan isn't accepted, football is a dead sport here."

Gruber contends that interest in youth football is cresting. This fall, 127 players and 51 cheerleaders participated in the football alliance's inaugural season. Next year a flag football program will be added.

Several players, cheerleaders and their parents showed their support by attending a combined committee meeting Nov. 8. Standing four deep in the hallway adjacent to the school board's meeting room, they listened to Gruber make his pitch.

According to a proposed budget, all costs of a seventh-grade team, or $30,900, would be covered by the football alliance.

The next year the school district would have to come up with $12,300 of the total $22,300.

By 2009, when the high school would field its first junior varsity team, Gruber said the organization would cover $30,000 of the proposed $52,000 budget.

The next year, the program's first season competing with a varsity team, the football alliance pledged to deliver $25,000 of the proposed $61,900 cost.

"We've got more than enough very good kids to support the program," he said.

School board members responded skeptically. President Robert Heckman directed the athletic department and the administrators to find out how much football would cost.

For budgetary and scheduling reasons, Gruber expects the board to rule by late January.

"I was told not to do this, that it would never happen," Gruber said. "I haven't gotten any negative feedback to what we're doing this whole year."

Contributors have been enthused by the plan. Gruber said the football alliance has raised $54,000 since January.

Next year the group expects to accumulate over $72,000. Two golf outings, which Gruber considers lucrative, and a comedy night are planned.

"There are a lot of donations to be had," he said. "The whole process has been pretty consuming, but you can raise as much as you want."

Last summer, a football clinic featuring a handful of players from Penn State helped boost interest. Gruber said a similar clinic is scheduled for 2007.

If the plan is rejected, Gruber won't stop trying to build support for football.

"This is not a one-shot deal," he said. "We're going to continue to push forward. If our plan isn't engaged I would consider football a dead sport in Oley. A lot of 11-year-olds didn't come out because they had nowhere to play in the future."

A week later, the school board rejected a proposal to create a part-time position that would monitor safety during after-school hours.

Kerry Maderia, who introduced the motion as a pilot program, was the only member to vote for it.

"I appreciate you sticking to your guns," Heckman said.

Superintendent Jeffrey Zackon recommended the position, and said he hopes to direct all after-school activity to the high school.

Christopher Hannum resisted initially, saying the position wouldn't adequately protect four buildings in four hours a night. The superintendent is studying access to all district buildings after school.

"I know it's hard to vote against any kind of security," Hannum said. "I'm asking for a better game plan."

The proposal will be reexamined in the Property and Transportation Committee, headed by Mary Ann McCarthy.

Heckman suggested the board consider hiring a consultant to address security concerns within the next four months.

"I'm not a fan of consultants," he said. "But sometimes you need other eyes to analyze an issue.

In other news

The board ratified Mary Beth Short (high school bowling) and Mary Stevenson (middle school cheerleading) as co-curricular coaches as well as high school volunteer coaches Matt Barrell and Gerald Tyson (boys basketball) and Sue Brown (cheerleading).

Medical leave for teachers Lenore Pelosi, from Jan. 29 through March 2, 2007, and Janice Rothbard, effective Nov. 21, was also approved.

The board's reorganization meeting is scheduled for Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. The tax study commission meeting follws at 7:30.

Ralph Richard's proposal to transfer $741,000 from an unreserved/undesignated fund balance to a designated fund balance. Richard, head of the Budget and Finance Committee, said the money will help mitigate cash flow issues created by the implementation of Act 1.

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