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Campaign can unite city, save athletics

Stan Bozich absolutely lit up at the PIL's spring fund-raising meeting last week at Cleveland High, and not because he was angry about Portland Public Schools axing funds for spring sports.

He saw an opportunity.

Bozich, who is in the Benson High School athletics hall of fame and coached baseball at Roosevelt High for 17 years, saw an opportunity for Portlanders to connect with their high schools, the kind of opportunity that only comes along every 35 years or so.

'Sometimes, it takes something like this to motivate a community,' said Bozich, 72. 'This is our chance to unite the community behind a common goal: doing something good for our kids.'

I look at athletics and activities as part of the process of trying to reach every student. Some kids will open a math textbook, see the numbers dance, and fly off to Cal Tech on their way to the space shuttle program. Other kids can learn to read and write and sit still, but they won't actually light up until they grab hold of a tennis racket or a basketball or a tuba or a pompom.

The goal for public schools is to find this key to every student.

Members of the Oregon Sports Authority shared this view when they donated $100,000 last Friday.

'We resent the label 'extracurricular' being attached to athletics,' said Kevin Kelly, president of the Oregon Sports Authority's board of directors. 'Athletics and activities are part of the curriculum of a school.'

Kelly, who owns First Call Heating and Cooling, went to Jesuit and is as committed as anyone to athletics. He was president of U.S. Bank when it began sponsoring the Oregon School Activities Association's state championships in 1984. He attended Santa Clara University on a baseball scholarship.

So here's our chance, Portland. And why stop at the $500,000 needed to fund spring sports?

Portland's first run-through at raising funds for athletics came in 1967 when the district raised $200,000 to fund athletics for the whole year.

'That was a lot of money in those days,' Bozich said. 'That would probably be like $2 million today.'

If the district had $2 million in its athletic fund, it could finish its lighting projects at Cleveland, Marshall and Roosevelt high schools, and it could look into installing much-needed tracks at all 10 schools. That's the kind of news that Peter Jennings, Dan Rather or Tom Brokaw might report on.

People wondered what kind of message Portland was sending to the business world when its school district axed funding for spring athletics on the heels of cutting more than two weeks of classroom instruction.

Perhaps the message that Portlanders can send to the nation Ñ and to themselves Ñ is that they care about a full educational curriculum, and they know an opportunity when they see one.

Contact Cliff Pfenning at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..