Comedy Sportz not laughing over theater fee

David Hancock, Staff Writer

In Lodi USD, the district policy states that no other parties besides the district’s administration are allowed to charge facility use fees and, in most cases, school functions are exempt from any fees; thus, when theater teacher Cassie Champeau told Comedy Sportz they had to pay $25 to use the theater for their next game it was no laughing matter.

Champeau maintains that because she is not charging the club for the facility, but for the equipment in the facility, that the fee is allowed.

Additionally, she argues that fee is reasonable because whenever anything in the theater needs to be repaired, the money to do so comes from the theater’s budget.

“The fee is not for the theater, it’s for the equipment in the theater,” Champeau said. “Anything that gets broken in the theater is paid for from the theater fund and not the district; the theater can charge groups for the use of the theater’s equipment.”

However, district officials disagree with this premise, stating that all light, sound, and any other equipment is included in the use of the facility.

“In my opinion, [Champeau] should not be charging a school function for use of a school facility,” LUSD Planning Analyst Vickie Brum said. “It’d be like charging the football team to use the field.”

Brum says she disagrees with the “theatrical donation” charge. She says that all technical equipment is included in the fees that come from the district, and that those fees are only for non-school groups.

“Let me be clear, when the school — and that’s clubs, sports teams, any school function — uses a school facility, there should be NO fees beyond custodial,” Brum said.

Not only is charging clubs to use facilities and equipment against the district policy, it is contradictory to how things usually run at Bear Creek too.

“Typically, if a Bear Creek group uses a Bear Creek facility, there would be no fees,” Vice Principal Sera Baysinger said. “Typically, only outside groups pay the fee schedule.”

Baysinger emphasized the word “typically” because although it is uncommon, there is one exception to the fee rule for school functions.

“The only time a BC group would be charged to use a BC facility would be on weekends, like with Speech and Debate, and the fee would be only to pay for custodial services,” Baysinger said.

Comedy Sportz advisor Heather Blount consented to paying the fee, even to the point of agreeing to paying $35 for Comedy Sportz game on December 16.

“It [the fee] is definitely kind of a frustration, but I understand why because of all the costs involved in running a theater,” Blount said.

The “theatrical donation,” as Champeau calls it, was a “special thing” for Comedy Sportz because, as a performance-based club, they rely very heavily on have a venue to perform. Other groups requesting to use the sound and light equipment were not given the option to pay $25 and were, instead, not permitted to use the equipment at all, Champeau said.

Jazz Band teacher Joseph Sandoval, however, says that his band and the choir have never been charged a fee for their concerts and they use the lighting and sound equipment in their performances. Champeau says she hasn’t charged them because they are theatrical groups and Comedy Sportz is not.

“It felt very personal to our club because she let us use the theater last year for free, and we’re still a theatrical club and that helps the theater,” Comedy Sportz treasurer Kirsten Weber said. “I hope all of it gets figured out.”