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October 10. 2012 11:26PM

City school board to vote on whether to allow advertising

MANCHESTER — Coming soon: the Verizon Gym at Central High?

A key school board subcommittee has signed off on a policy that would allow advertising — with restrictions — on school property, including publications and broadcasts.

The policy has been spearheaded by school board member John Avard, who told the Coordination Committee ahead of its vote Wednesday that loosening restrictions on ads could bring much-needed revenue for the cash-strapped district.

“I see the opportunity for business owners to donate to a school, as long as they get some recognition, like a plaque or a letter going home with the students,” he said.

He pointed to a sign outside Trinity High School — a private school — for Harvard Pilgrim. “How much do you think they donated to the school for that? I think we have to look outside our normal areas to fund this district. It could have helped us last night when we were trying to find more money for extra-curricular activities,” he said.

Avard was referring to the school board meeting Tuesday, when members scrambled to find funds to restore cuts to extra-curricular clubs after an outcry from the public.

The ads could include signs at athletic fields and in gyms and cafeterias. The policy also allows for video and audio ads.

Any advertising would have to be in keeping with “contemporary standards of good taste,” according to the policy, and all advertising agreements would have to be approved by the superintendent, as well as the school board.

The policy specifically bars advertising that promotes “tobacco, alcohol, illegal drugs, gambling or weapons,” contains “obscene or sexually explicit language,” or that advances “any religious or political organization and/or message” or candidate for elected office.

Avard has not speculated on how much revenue ads could bring to the district, but he said he believes they could support the hiring of a coordinator who would oversee the program and further boost the number of advertising and sponsorship accounts.

School board member Art Beaudry was the only person on the committee to express reservations about the policy. He said he was concerned that students could be exposed to inappropriate content.

“What if someone wants to promote condoms? There’s nothing in the language that says they can’t put a banner up,” Beaudry said.

Superintendent Thomas Brennan replied at Wednesday’s meeting that he would reject any such ads. “This superintendent would say no,” he said.

Subcommittee member Sarah Ambrogi said that she believed condom ads would likely be barred because they contained sexually explicit content.

The policy is based partly on those in place in the Nashua and Palmer, Mass., school districts.

The full Board of School Committee is expected to vote on the policy at its next meeting.

tsiefer@unionleader.com


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