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Ad wrap concept is tough sell
School board frowns on truck, van space
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Forsyth County News

Other business

Also from Thursday's meeting, the Forsyth County school board:

* Discussed applying for a Title 20 waiver seeking more flexibility in the Early Intervention Program. The state limits schools to serving just 3 percent of their neediest students above and beyond children who do not do well on the CRCT. The request seeks to expand the cap to 3 percent of the system and allow a minimum of 225 minutes of weekly instruction per early intervention student.

* Reviewed the possibility of creating school calendars one year in advance, instead of two. The board also weighed whether to end the school year on a day other than Friday and including inclement weather days in calendar drafts.

* Heard from Bailey Mitchell, chief technology and information officer, who talked about the benefits of the audio enhancement systems in West Forsyth High classrooms. The systems have received positive feedback, including increased comprehension and student focus and confidence. But, Mitchell acknowledged, the $1,400 cost per classroom is not a viable during budget tightening.

* Learned the school district has been invited by CISCO to join five other systems in the Education 3.0 Learning Indicators Project, whose goal is to equip every student for the 21st century. A team from the Educational Development Center is working with Johns Creek Elementary and North Middle schools on factors that affect student learning.

-- Jennifer Sami

It could generate more than $230,000 a year, but the idea of using Forsyth County school trucks and vans to advertise for local businesses wasn't well received Thursday.

School Public Information Officer Jennifer Caracciolo told the Board of Education she had a similar initial reaction.

"I sat it on my desk for a couple of months because it was such a different idea and I just had to think about it a little bit," Caracciolo said.

Dan Jones, the district's chief financial officer, said he also was reluctant at first, but warmed to the idea after seeing the possible revenue.

"One of the things in the strategic plan is looking for alternative ways to raise revenue. This is one," he said. "We could accumulate this money and set it aside to replace vehicles as they age over the years, and would not have to use taxpayer dollars to buy vehicles."

The idea to wrap the school system's 12 trucks and 25 vans with advertisements came from In-Depth Signs & Designs, one of the system's partners in education.

"We realized there was a real shortcoming on funds for a lot of the programs in the school system," said co-owner John Westmoreland. "You always know that, but you don't actually see it firsthand until you're actively involved with them."

Westmoreland, who has worked with Forsyth Central High School on design programs, said the company talked to a few local businesses that were eager to participate in the idea.

"I honestly think it's one of those thing that there will be a waiting list for," he said.
Westmoreland said each truck or van could bring in more than $6,000 annually from advertising, with the system's two box trucks possibly drawing more than $12,000.

The cost to advertise on a truck is lower than advertising on a billboard, Westmoreland said.

"It's hitting their target market all day long, much more than a billboard will standing in one place," he said.

To show the board what the advertisements might look like, Westmoreland wrapped one of the school system's vans with an advertisement for his client Lakeside Pharmacy.

Pharmacy owner Apollon Constantinides wraps all of his delivery vehicles with advertisements. He said he would also jump at the opportunity to advertise on school system vehicles.

"It's kind of a hometown thing for me," Constantinides said. "A lot of times, when you're dealing with advertising, you're thinking of the prospect of getting new business.

"While that is a big deal, I would put it second to helping the community, just because I think it's a good way to get much needed money into the school system."

Constantinides, who has two children in the district, said the financial benefit to the school system would outweigh any aesthetic concerns of the ads.

"You can't please people 100 percent of the time," he said. "The concept I think is really great, and anything that we can do to benefit our education system for our local kids is the way to go."

Board members struggled with the negative aspects, particularly Ann Crow.

"I have a big problem with it," Crow said. "I don't know how commercialized we want to get with our schools. What is the bottom line of using public property to use for private advertising?

"The money is great. You listen to talk about that money and all the things we need ... that sounds wonderful. But how far do we want to go with this?"

Jones noted the school system allows businesses to pay for banners on athletic fields. Report cards have been sponsored for years by banks and other businesses, Crow said.

Still, Crow said it's a line she's not ready to cross, particularly with the trucks and vans representing the district countywide.

Board member Mike Dudgeon agreed, saying there likely would be parents who feel the same way.

Tom Cleveland, who also is on the board, said he had the same concerns, but added that the school district "can't create too many wedges and this is one of them that might be a possibility,"

"This is a new, innovative way the world is going," he said. "For DECA programs and other marketing [students], this is an experience for them to possibly see us innovate in the world that they're going to be growing in.

"We have to be open to the future of the world and the way advertising will be handled."

The board postponed any action on the idea until spring, when it will begin looking over the budget.