School Board Splits Over FHS Sponsorship Policy Change

Board of Education member Richard Seamon was unsuccessful in his attempt to table proposed changes to a board policy.

A divided Board of Education on March 23 introduced major changes to its policy regulating sponsorship signage, and who in the district can solicit sponsors.

The changes restrict sponsorship advertising – such as banners – to only the high school athletic complex, meaning the football stadium and the gym. The underlying policy, which was approved in 2010, allowed sponsorship signage in all schools.

The changes would also allow school-connected organizations, such as PTOS or booster clubs,  to sell the sponsorships as a way to raise money. Any sponsorships would have to be approved by the district’s central administration

The restriction to the high school and the ability for school-connected organization to solicit sponsorships prompted dissent from four board members, led by member Richard Seamon. Seamon unsuccessfully tried to have the amended policy tabled before it was introduced by a 5-4 vote.

The proposed amendments will have a public hearing and final vote at the board’s April meeting.

The original policy, adopted in August 2010, allowed the district to “enter into an agreement with an individual, organization, corporation or other business wherein in return for payment, or goods or services provided to the district, space on or in a district facility is leased to the individual, organization, corporation or other business to display its name, address, image, logo, or brand. Payment for the use of this space will be used for the benefit of the district as a whole in a way consistent with the district Mission Statement.”

The proposed amendments call for the school board to annually designate a list of school-connected organizations which “exist in part to supply financial support to the schools and/or district athletic or extra-curricular activities.”

“To facilitate the fundraising role of these organizations, the Board of Education will permit any School Connected Organization affiliated with a Franklin High School athletics; co-curricular or extracurricular activities to hang a banner or sign on the premises of the Franklin High School Athletic Complex in consideration for payment, or goods or services provided to that School Connected Organization by an individual, organization, corporation or other business,” according to the proposed amendments.

The schools Superintendent or designee will “establish regulations and procedures governing the size, placement, material/attachment mechanism, cost, content, duration and approval process of the appropriated space available,” according to the amendments.

The only information allowed on the banners would be the sponsor’s name, address, phone number, registered trademark or logo ad registered web site address, according to the amendments. No advertising would be allowed.

Political and religious messages would also be prohibited from the banners, according to the policy amendments.

Seamon had three objections to the amendments: the restriction to the high school, giving responsibility for selling the sponsorships to the school-connected organizations, and taking control of the program from the central administration.

It was the third aspect about which Seamon said he was “most concerned.”

“These are signs, banners,” he said. “If we allow this process to be distributed to any agency or organization in the school district, we will have no guarantee” that the signs will be aesthetically similar, how they will be hung, or who will assume liability if someone is injured by one.

“What the sign would say, the colors, how intrusive it might be, what it’s made out of, how it’s attached to the building, these are significant issues,” he said. “I’m very concerned about the modification of policy to allow any one of dozens of organizations in the district to go willy-nilly and hang signs throughout the district.”

“I think more thought should be put into it,” he said. I would respectfully suggest the policy be tabled.”

Board president Ed Potosnak told Seamon that the individual groups would not be producing the banners, but would simply be looking for sponsors.

“The main thing is, it hasn’t worked the way it’s written because we don’t have a single sign anywhere,” Potosnak said. “Student groups don’t have the benefits of sponsorships. It’s getting challenging” for the groups to raise money.

“That’s why the policy committee looked at it with a ton of staff input, and looked at what other districts are doing,” he said.

Potosnak said Seamon did “raise a good point, though, which is, what about the rest of the district. This policy as changed doesn’t address that. My suggestion would be to come up with a policy to address that.”

High school athletic director Ken Margolin sees the policy change as a “win-win,” said schools Superintendent John Ravally.

“He gets to adorn the athletic facility, he gets to offer the support groups an opportunity and an avenue to raise funds,” Ravally said. “Those are the very groups that he turns to, and so do others. They rely on those support groups to fund programs for students that otherwise wouldn’t be affordable, and it’s a win for the kids because they get something out of it.”

“The intention in 2010 was for the district to manage it and for the district to accept the money,” said Seamon, who was a board member then. “That was on purpose.”

Seamon said it took that school board two years to agree on a policy.

One of the major concerns, he said, was objectionable content being displayed.

“If the central administration is in charge and has the responsibility to manage this process, then ultimately it will come to one person or one group of people to determine whether any sponsorship that is requested is acceptable to the district,” he said.

Seamon said if that decision is left to the individual school-connected organizations, someone will eventually object to something and “we’ll be right back here arguing about why did we let company XYZ have a sign.”

“I strongly suggest that this be a centralized process,” Seamon said. “There has to be some control over some events. It just can’t be left to every PTO or the band parents.

Potosnak told Seamon that the superintendent, or the superintendent’s designee, would have final approval over the sponsorship.

“It’s still in the central administration,” he said.

Seamon said he also thought all the school district’s buildings should be included in the policy.

“The rewriting of this policy is telling all these groups that if you’re not in the athletic complex, you don’t have to bother,” he said.

Potosnak said the board should move the policy through, and then revisit it at a later date “to make it more encompassing, or write a new policy.”

The board should just table it, Seamon said, so the policy committee can “start again, as opposed to write it again and again.”

Potosnak then suggested two minor changes to the policy, one specifying that it applies only to the high school and that sponsorships are not allowed in other buildings, and that the creation of the banners would not be handled by the groups soliciting them.

Seamon then moved for the policy amendment to be tabled. It was defeated 5-4, with him, Pat Stanley, Christine Danielsen and Ardamon Singh voting for it.

Introduction of the policy changes was then moved and passed, with Seamon, Stanley, Danielsen and Singh voting “no.”

“The important thing here is that we will be looking at these quick changes, and we’ll take it from there,” Potosnak said.


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