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Parkland Plan to Sell Ad Space Inside School Buses Hits Bump

The Parkland School Board tabled the bus ad initiative on 5-3 vote at its meeting Tuesday night after two residents and a fellow board member spoke in opposition.

The Parkland School Board was prepared to vote Tuesday night on what turned out to be a controversial proposal to sell ad space inside 's school buses, and wound up tabling the matter on a 5-3 vote.

The board's vote sends , which would have set up an ad review committee and established a contract with an ad design agency, back to the board's Building and Grounds Committee.

Superintendent Richard Sniscak said the initiative's future is uncertain -- the committee could futher discuss it and send it back to the full board for a vote or the initiative could wither there.

The Building and Grounds committee had recommended the board enter a contract with The Factory advertising design company in Schnecksville, which would have solicited ads for the inside of the district's school buses, at the inside roof line.

Two residents spoke against the plan.

"What type of lesson is that, to say if you have the money, you can have accesses to our children's minds," said Upper Macungie resident Andrew Bench, a 2002 Parkland graduate and former captain of the high school debate team. "While that message is promoted every day in our commercial world, it should not be the goal of great public institutions like this school district."

The bus ads initiative grew from the district's attempts to find creative ways to deal with its financial challenges. Last year, in the face of funding cuts and lower property assessments, the district to balance the budget for the current school year.

As fiscal challenges continue, officials say the district is again looking at potential layoffs and program cuts in the 2012-2013 school year.

In these difficult economic times, Sniscak said at the meeting, the district is forced to make unpopular decisions. He said the district looks for a "sensible" approach to raising revenue, as it balances its educational programs and the potential burden on taxpayers.

Under the agreement that board was to consider, The Factory's commission would be 25 percent of the cost of the ad, and Parkland would receive 75 percent. Sniscak said the ads could bring in up to $150,000.

The ad company would develop ads geared toward health, nutrition, higher education and safety, district officials have said.

"While this sound reasonable in theory," Branch said, "I caution that reality is much more difficult. "For instance, will the district allow advertisements for gyms? They may promote health, but what do they say to the 10th grader dealing with body issue problems.

"Or, what does the placard for Lafayette College say to the student who doesn't have the grades to go there? Who would or would not be allowed to advertise becomes innately political and innately contentious."

Also concerned about the initiative was resident David Parsons, who questioned the controls that would be used to assure appropriate ads.

Under the proposal, 10 people would serve on a committee that would give the thumbs up or thumbs down to an advertisement. 

Serving on the committee would be:

  • Sniscak
  • Assistant Superintendent Rod Troutman
  • Assistant to the Superintendent of Operations Tracy Smith
  • Director of Community Relations Nicole McGalla
  • Garage Foreman Val Strock
  • One elementary principal
  • One secondary principal
  • A member of the Community Advisory Committee
  • A teacher
  • An elementary parent

Before board member Roberta Marcus moved to table the vote, board president Jayne Bartlett, who favored the agreement, said she had faith in the administration to do what's right for the district's children.

Board member Robert Cohen, however, said he planned to vote against the proposed agreement between the district and the ad design agency because he saw advertising in schools as potentially insidious. He said he questioned what would come next. 

Frediano January 19, 2012 at 02:16 PM
I think that is a constructive suggestion. I'd bet the BOE would be more than willing to see this managed by some other format committee, but they would be derelict in their elected duties if they did not implement some means of public oversight(which is exactly what an elected BOE is...) The BOE has more than enough to do, I'm sure they'd love not to have one more committee meeting to attend to(as unpaid volunteers who have yet subjected themselves to the election process for a four year term.) Politics: the art and science of getting what you want from others using any means short of violence. What we want from others ranges all the way from 'to be left alone' to 'to be ridden like tribal property ponies for every need, whim, desire and even implementation of our worldview for us.' So, IMO, It is not possible for any of us to be devoid of 'politics' because(as I think it was Menken who said)a man who says he is not interested in politics is like a drowning man who says he isn't interested in water. Any political context is a tribal power structure under which the sometimes fluid rules which constrain 'what we want from others' are nominally enforced or ... politically extended or restricted. An elected (and did I mention unpaid?) BOE is one element of our political context; would we replace them in this instance with an unelected, unpaid committee of volunteers, and what would be the public oversight of that committee?
Frediano January 19, 2012 at 02:34 PM
None of those things are anything for children to aspire to, such as, a degree from Lafayette, which is certainly something to aspire to. If we want our kids to target the bottom of the hill, then we encourage them not to try to climb the hill by pointing out all of the Nerf we've piled up underneath Hayek's safety net, the effect of which is to turn a safety net into a trampoline. In the case of Lafayette, the uphill climb is literally, climbing College Hill. And, Lehigh is no slouch either in the hill climbing department. Finding potential 'harm' in an ad for Lafayette College in the context of education is a new definition of 'harm,' and in that context, the entitlements that make up our safety net are achievable without any effort whatsoever and thus, unable to cause the kind of 'harm' represented by an ad for Lafayette College or even our own worldclass LCTI. Princeton(magna cum laude) and MIT, by the way, but clues were much cheaper back then. I had a full RA to MIT, so they paid me to take my clues. One of which was, how to argue issues without downshifting to ad hom, fellow Parkland Parent.
Frediano January 19, 2012 at 02:39 PM
The real message of this issue is, are we all getting a sense of how difficult the current budget stress is? Not just Parkland, but, including Parkland. That is the real message behind this issue.
Frediano January 19, 2012 at 02:54 PM
They are straining to read the billboards outside. See, at its essence, this is a safety issue.
parkland parent and loud voice January 20, 2012 at 02:49 AM
Folks, Get the facts, this is an issue for our district AND OUR YOUNGEST KIDS! Yes there is budget stress. But this in no way will even start to fix the problem, while influencing the young minds. THERE IS NOTHING IN THE DOCUMENTS FOR THIS AGREEMENT THAT LIMIT THIS HIGH SCHOOL ONLY! NOTHING! The document is clear that we will eventually head to all buses( that would be everyone) The impact on the budget IF THEY SELL IT OUT AT $150,000 is exactly .1%. Based on the average increase on last years taxes, we are talking LESS than .01$ per a person per a month is saved. Is that worth the influence of children. Not high school but ELEMENTARY children. What value do your kids have in this calculation? Only you can answer that. Is there other ways to do this. SURE ARE. Is there any limitations in the agreement that protect the school distirct or the children, NO THERE ARE NOT! If we are so set on doing it, the school board that is, then do it right!

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