The Newark City Schools' Board of Education approved a reduction in pay-to-participate fees last Monday.

The Newark City Schools' Board of Education approved a reduction in pay-to-participate fees last Monday.

Voters all but saved extracurricular activities in May by passing a 7.5-mill levy, but the financially-strapped district's ability to lower participation fees for the 2009-10 school year is a direct result of the "Million Dollar Dream" campaign, outgoing superintendent Keith Richards said.

"I think it's terrific that we were able to get something that significant out of the community," Richards said during the last board meeting he will be presiding over.

The dream originated with resident Sandy Mercer and her mother, Joan Spillman, who casually told Mercer during a basketball game last winter about a dream she had that 1,000 people stepped forward to donate $1,000 each, which would have raised the funds necessary to keep sports and other activities going in case the levy failed. From there, a committee of 12 members was formed to send out letters asking for help and other fundraising ideas, and $45,000 was raised.

Now, students who paid $200 last year in pay-to-participate fees will pay only $165 in the coming school year. The cost for other co-curricular activities is dropping from $65 to $55.

The reduced fees will help newly-hired athletics director Ken Long begin his tenure on a good note, and he said that it also strengthens his belief that the community is both willing and able to do what's necessary to help the district.

"I'm very impressed with the quality of people in Newark," he said. "I know I can't wait to meet those ladies."