Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, Olympian Anita DeFrantz and several philanthropic foundations Thursday to announce a plan to preserve high school sports in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Unified School District was set to eliminate numerous school teams and cut coaching positions due to a $1.3 million reduction in its sports budget. But the LA84 Foundation, headed by DeFrantz, and McCourt quickly rounded up donors to keep student-athletes in the game.
Supervisor Ridley-Thomas will contribute $25,000 to the effort. “Losing high school sports teams could devastate communities in my district just as earthquakes, fires and floods do; the County steps up in natural disasters. This may be a different type of emergency response, but it is equally important to keeping neighborhoods safe and healthy.”
LAUSD officials said the total donations will pay the salaries of 700 coaches and preserve teams at 75 high schools across the district, in sports from football, to cross-country to water polo.
The Supervisor kicked off the news conference in the gymnasium at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex downtown. Student athletes from several LAUSD high schools attended the event. In addition to heads of charitable foundations, representatives from the Chivas USA soccer team and Nike also announced their financial support.
The LA 84 Foundation, created following the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, was first off the line with a $252,000 grant in March. DeFrantz, a rowing Bronze medalist in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, then sought contributions from others.
McCourt said the Dodgers Dream Foundation would support baseball and softball programs. Steve Soboroff, chairman of the Weingart Foundation, said his organization would donate $150,000.
Ridley-Thomas, said he is especially gratified the funds will preserve sports at schools with which he has a personal history – Manual Arts, Dorsey, Fairfax, Crenshaw, Washington and Fremont High schools.
Ridley-Thomas is a Manual Arts graduate and was president of the senior class in 1972. While enrolled at Manual Arts, he also took German language classes at Dorsey and Fairfax, and was guided by mentors on the Crenshaw and Washington faculties. He met his wife, Avis Ridley-Thomas, when she was a student at Fremont High School.
During his college years, Ridley-Thomas taught reading at Manual Arts and also worked as the school’s assistant finance manager. Manual Arts is walking-distance from the University of Southern California, where the Supervisor earned his PhD degree.