A Smart Buy? Schools Weigh Advertising Policy

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In December, an article in USA Today told the story of a San Diego area high school calculus teacher who, when faced with an almost one-third cut in funds available for supplies, turned to selling ads on his tests one line on the footer of each page to offset the printing costs.

It is a thought-provoking premise and one that is even more relevant as the Alexandria School Board puts the finishing touches on an updated and standardized policy on advertisements in the citys schools.

The process, 15 months in the making, has been slowed by and has spanned the departure of one superintendent, the tenure of an interim superintendent and the search for a long-term replacement that culminated in the hiring of Morton Sherman last year.

And, facing the current economic realities in Alexandria and the rest of the country, the process may be coming to an end at just the right time.

Although there are no new, concrete standards regulating the advertisements, sponsorships or commercial partnerships in Alexandrias schools, they could be coming within a month or so, board member Scott Newsham explained.

The process began in 2007 after Newsham asked the superintendent at the time whether the guidelines for advertising were in harmony with the boards policy.

When the Board realized that the existing policy prohibited any advertising in Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) and that it had been occurring anyway, Newsham said the board then put together an ad hoc committee to look into reviewing and updating the policy.

With the superintendent turnover, Newsham said much of the boards time and energy was diverted from following up on an advertising policy to finding a new superintendent.

The original policy dated back several decades to a time when school officials thought any advertising was inappropriate, ACPS Assistant Superintendent John Porter said.

According to Virginia code 22.1-89.4, Each school board shall develop and implement, and may, from time to time, revise, a policy relating to commercial, promotional, and corporate partnerships and sponsorships involving the public schools within the division.

In this case, the board is moving to revise the existing policy with a goal of fostering more and better relationships with Alexandrias business community, Newsham said.

In the past, sponsorships involving things like drama handbills, student newspaper advertisements and T.C. Williams invitational track meets came on an as-needed basis. Standardizing the policy and regulations will now make opportunities more open and accessible, Porter said.

Once the board sets the new policy, ACPS staff will be able to go about developing their regulations along those guidelines, Porter said.

But, while the principal at the San Diego school said hed received mixed reaction on the matter, Porter said that in all likelihood and optimism it would not get to that point here.
I dont envision that being allowed by the policy or through any potential regulations, Porter said. Hopefully the economy will not get anyone [here] to that level of necessity.

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