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Clintonville volleyball booster club funds ignite controversy

Clintonville High School File Photo

Money given to another club

By Bert Lehman

Questions have been raised regarding funds from the Clintonville volleyball booster club that were donated to Northern Ignite volleyball club.

Was the donation was approved by the booster club and what role the Clintonville School District should take regarding the situation.

Funds from the Clintonville volleyball booster club were donated to Northern Ignite by Jade Czarnecki, who was the varsity head coach of the Clintonville Truckers High School volleyball team at the time.

As head coach, she had authority to spend booster club funds. Czarnecki later resigned as Clintonville’s head volleyball coach, then accepted the club director position with Northern Ignite.

The Clintonville Tribune-Gazette contacted Czarnecki, Northern Ignite board members and Clintonville Superintendent Troy Kuhn for information about the situation. The information they provided is below.


Czarnecki was the varsity volleyball coach for Clintonville High School for two years, which put her in charge of the Clintonville volleyball booster club funds. She told the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette that the statement she provided refers to her time as the head coach of the high school volleyball team, and not her time with Northern Ignite.

“During my two years as head coach we hosted camps, open gyms, and even allocated funds for professional volleyball athletes to host a camp in our home gym,” Czarnecki said in the statement. “Even with all these wonderful opportunities, not every player was not able to participate and I still did not feel like I was doing enough for our girls and the volleyball community.”

Czarnecki said that while she was the volleyball head coach, she researched schools in Clintonville’s conference who had a successful volleyball program, asking one of the coaches what made them successful.

“The coach immediately attributed the success to having an established club that runs out of their home gym and all but three players in the school’s program play club volleyball whether at that club or elsewhere,” Czarnecki said in the statement.

That conversation, according to Czarnecki, was when she knew that a successful volleyball program in Clintonville couldn’t be achieved during only two months out of the school season, as that wasn’t “enough time to effectively develop players and ignite their passion for volleyball.”

“The varsity head coach is responsible for player development of the seniors all the way down to fifth grade,” she said in the statement. “I needed to look at the big picture to understand what it would take for Clintonville Volleyball to be successful in 5, 10, or 15 years. I then did research and as the head coach, I chose to donate to a non-profit that would have a greater impact on Clintonville Volleyball than I could have ever achieved through my role alone.”

Since WIAA rules limit who can coach student athletes in the offseason, Czarnecki stated that “between that and assisting with the establishment of the club, I made the difficult decision to resign from the head coaching position as to not put either program in a compromised position.”

She concluded her statement, “As an alumni of the school, I am excited to see where club volleyball will take the Clintonville program and wish the best for both parties.”

Northern Ignite

Northern Ignite provided the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette a statement signed by three of its board members. They described Northern Ignite as “a non-profit volleyball club located in Clintonville, WI. Our goal is to bring as many opportunities to Clintonville Area volleyball athletes as possible, whether that be club teams, camps, clinics, sport specific education or access to a gym/weight room.”

The statement said that in its first year of existence, Northern Ignite hosted more than 100 volleyball athletes through various camps and clinics.

“We were able to field 40+ athletes over four teams, ranging from 11-17 years old,” the statement read. “A majority of those athletes were from the Clintonville School District.”

The statement continued, “The donation we received during our inception helped establish Northern Ignite as a non-profit and solidify an infrastructure that can support continued success, just like we’ve seen in our first year. We encourage the community to keep supporting these female athletes as they continue to grow in a sport that they love.”

Clintonville School District

In an interview with the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette, Kuhn said the account that the funds were used from belongs to the Clintonville volleyball booster club, which the Clintonville School District has no jurisdiction over.
“The (high school volleyball) coaches are in charge of the booster club, as well as the Trucker Volleyball Club (which is a school group), so that’s where the difference of opinion comes in,” Kuhn said “First of all, the booster club should probably have a board set up. But the way it was set up originally, that this is going to be an account where we can put money in or out of without necessarily going through the school.”

Kuhn said the volleyball booster club was formed before he was hired by the school district.

Regarding the relationship the district has with the volleyball booster club, Kuhn said the district does not work with the booster club because it is an entity not associated with the school district. He added that any checks written to the Clintonville School District for a fundraiser are deposited in a school activity account even if the funds are from a fundraiser organized by the booster club.

“The booster club was doing fundraisers, but they weren’t specific about who to write the check to. Any checks that were written to the Clintonville School District got deposited in the student account, not the booster club account,” Kuhn said. “There was never any transfer from Clintonville (School District) to booster or from booster to Clintonville.”

While the funds were used to help start Northern Ignite, Kuhn said it was his understanding that “talk of creating an area volleyball club began years ago in anticipation of getting Clintonville and other kids extra reps to be successful in the future.”

“To my understanding, there’s two main differences in opinions right now,” Kuhn said. “Was it ever disclosed that the money raised was specific to create a volleyball club? And two, was there an agreement, and who agreed to how to use the booster money to create the club, and how much money should be used to create a club?”

Kuhn said he became aware of the use of funds from people who heard about it in the community.

“I want to thank those people because if we did something wrong, I want to be the first to correct our policies and procedures, but also, not just myself, the school board members, everybody,” Kuhn said. “The whole situation put a black eye on the district, especially the volleyball program, so we want to get as much factual information out there that we can share. Like we said after we investigated everything, the money was completely separate from the school district and we wanted to make sure that the public knew there was no wrongdoing by the district and that we separate ourselves from booster clubs. That’s why we put all that stuff on the (school) board agenda.”

Upon hearing about the funds use, Kuhn said the district checked the Clintonville Trucker Volleyball student account and found that none of those funds were missing.

“After the post was published, my phone was blowing up,” Kuhn said. “And it’s really hard for me to tell people that I have been advised that I can’t do anything about this because it’s not our money. However, being the face of the district, I worked with people. The Northern Ignite board members called me, as well as the current coaches, and I said you guys have to figure this out because the school is not a part of the booster club money. That’s where I would say the difference of opinions still are.”

He said he also contacted the attorney for the school district to see what the district’s role should be regarding the situation.

“The district’s attorney said the school has no say in any of these funds, just back up and let other people handle it because you don’t have jurisdiction over that,” Kuhn said.

When asked why student activity accounts and use of district facilities were placed on the Feb. 12 school board agenda, Kuhn said, “We wanted to be transparent as a district. We wanted to show the public that we do have policies in place, we do have procedures in place. But yet at the same time, we can’t tell a booster club how to run their program or use their money. We can’t do that.”

Kuhn added that in order for funds to be used from a student group activity account, a request for funds by the group has to be made and then there are a series of steps and approvals needed before the funds are released. This helps prevent situations like the one the Clintonville volleyball booster club is currently dealing with.

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