District pressures administrators to give to Boy Scouts for dinner honoring Superintendent Susan Moxley

What do you do when your boss sends you a note saying that the top dog in your organization is being honored and you should give a donation and attend a fundraising event — where you'll be asked to pony up even more?

That's the dilemma facing about 200 people who work for the Lake County school district.

To make things even more sticky, the principals, assistant principals, supervisors and department directors are being asked to raise money for the Boy Scouts, which bans some of them and their students from joining.

Throw in the fact that the head of the local Boy Scouts organization in Apopka made $275,385 for the most recent year reported, and donating may become a little unappealing for the folks being asked to give — nearly all of whom are making less than a third of such a salary.

The request for a minimum donation of $10 was sent by Aurelia Cole, the district's chief of administration, through an email blast on Feb. 22.

It stated that the Central Florida Council of the Boy Scouts of America had selected Superintendent Susan Moxley as the honoree for the annual Golden Eagle Dinner at Mission Inn Resort & Club. The dinner on Thursday is the annual fundraiser for the Boy Scouts and is held at 11 locations in seven counties across the region.

Cole wrote:

"Now you know there is a cost to being honored! Therefore, we are asking each district level and school based administrator for a minimum donation of $10.00 for this event. (We will gladly accept more if you are willing to give it.)

"Each table is $1000 and will seat 10 people! Our goal is to have 3-4 tables, and we want as many employees as possible in attendance to support our Superintendent. Please notify me if you would like to attend. Seating selections will be made according to first responders."

Unfortunately, Cole said, she misunderstood how the dinner works. There is no cost to the school district to bring guests, said William Gosselin, chief operating officer of the Scouts' Central Florida Council.

"Oh, no, heaven forbid. Our office wouldn't do that. This isn't a ticketed event," Gosselin said.

Rather, the Scouts organization obtains corporate sponsorships for the tables, and honorees such as Moxley are encouraged to invite guests. Those guests typically understand that the event is to raise money for the Boy Scouts, and they are expecting the appeal that comes during the program.

But should top school administrators be "encouraged" — some might say pressured — to raise money for any organization, let alone one that bans gay students and gay adult leaders? (The Boy Scouts recently put off a vote on the question of whether to admit openly gay youth and leaders, and that vote now is expected for early May.)

Cole said she simply didn't think about the Scouts' policy on gays.

"My only thoughts were that my superintendent was being honored, and I just wanted to do whatever I could to support her," Cole said. "I apologize. I would never do it again."

Wow. Now, there's a rare response from a school administrator. When was the last time this school district took responsibility for anything? Cole said that neither a donation nor attendance is mandatory and that no one faces repercussions for deciding not to participate.

Still, there is the matter of the exorbitant salary for Ron Oats, the Scouts' chief executive officer He supervises 46 employees in the seven counties, which serve about 25,000 kids.

Documents submitted to the Internal Revenue Service by the Central Florida Council show that the Boy Scouts had $6.2 million in revenue during 2010, the most recent year for which financial information is available.

Of that, $2.8 million was donated by the community. Oats' salary alone takes up the equivalent of 10 percent of the money kicked in by regular folks such as those who come to see Moxley recognized. The Boy Scouts do a lot of good work with youths, but somehow, a salary in the corporate-crazy range doesn't seem right. Gosselin, however, defended the figure. He said it's set by a board of directors from the community who consider the "vast reach" of Scouting.

The school district could help set this right by sending a second email clearly stating that any donations are voluntary and that attendance at the dinner also isn't required.

She needs to consider more carefully whether she should be accepting honors from and raising money for organizations that regard some of her students as unworthy of membership.

Lritchie@tribune.com. Her blog is online at http://www.orlandosentinel.com/laureninlake. Lauren invites you to join her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/laurenonlake.

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