Repairing the Rift Between Westwood Public Schools and its Boosters (UPDATED)
Updated 5/17/2023 at 12:22 p.m. Images of the letters from Westwood Public Schools and Westwood Boosters have been added to this article.
In an April 27th letter from Westwood Public Schools (WPS) to the WPS Community, WPS leaders announced that the school district was ending its affiliation with Westwood High Boosters, a non-profit fundraising organization, over differences in viewpoints regarding transgender people. However, the district left open the possibility of a renewed relationship, should its concerns be adequately addressed.
By way of a responsive letter dated May 8th, Westwood Boosters (Boosters) (apparently a new or abbreviated moniker for the fundraising organization) appears ready to move forward in a renewed relationship, although it criticizes the WPS response at the same time.
The WPS letter of April 27th was signed by Superintendent Emily Parks, Westwood High School Principal Amy Davenport, and WPS Athletic Director Matthew Gillis. It noted that a “Westwood High Boosters” Twitter account had “repeatedly endorsed viewpoints through its ‘likes’ regarding transgender people that are not aligned with the polices and core values of the Westwood Public Schools (WPS) and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA).” The WPS letter stated that WPS would not accept financial support from the Boosters.
“To be clear, Westwood Public Schools unequivocally supports all students, including transgender students, and their right to access all programs within our District in accordance with applicable policies and the law,” the April letter declared.
WPS removed the Boosters’ webpage from the WPS website. It disabled the Boosters’ WPS-associated email account. WPS Athletic Director resigned as liaison to the Boosters. The WPS leaders stated that the Boosters had listed Mr. Gillis as one of its directors, which Mr. Gillis indicated was not authorized. The WPS leaders directed the Boosters’ board of directors to cease use of WPS logos, images or likeness.
However, WPS also left open a door, noting that “[i]n the event the Boosters take steps to adequately and thoroughly address our concerns, WPS will welcome a renewed relationship with the Boosters."
It appears the Boosters are attempting to walk through that door, though not without criticism about the way the situation has been handled.
In a copy of the Boosters letter dated May 8th to Superintendent Parks, the organization responds by stating that its Twitter account at issue was run by the organization’s president who has taken “full responsibility” for using the account to reflect his personal beliefs. Those beliefs are that “biological males should not compete against females in interscholastic sports because it is unfair and potentially dangerous to our female athletes.” The Boosters state that the organization is “disappointed” in WPS’ decision to end the affiliation via letter to the larger school community, which the Boosters call an “extreme reaction.”
The Boosters describe the WPS decision to sever ties with the fundraising organization as rash. “In light of the current financial climate, turning away financial aid from the Boosters does not seem to make sense,” writes the organization. Rejection of the Boosters’ financial aid not only hurts young athletes but may become a burden the taxpayers who may need to “fill the financial gap,” say the Boosters.
The Boosters claim that the organization has raised close to $300,000 since 2007 to support athletes, including $16,000 in 2020 and $12,000 in 2022. It lists its contributions this year as purchasing a “state-of-the-art field camera for the girls’ lacrosse and field hockey programs,” contributing $1,000 to the lacrosse team for state championship apparel, and funding for the Paul Lila Annual Scholarship.
However, the Boosters note that it has made "appropriate changes and updates," including taking down the Twitter site at issue. It notes it is ready to work together with the superintendent “for the good of all students.” However, it adds a criticism that the current situation could have been handled differently with a meeting which it believes could have resolved the issues “within a matter of an hour.”
Despite the levelled criticisms from both sides, perhaps WPS and the Boosters will find enough common ground in their desire to support WPS athletes and students. It seems steps are being taken at least, to repair this relationship to serve that very end.
Thanks to Westwood Boosters for contributing information for this article.