Carroll County school fundraising groups could sell banner ads for school-sponsored events, if the Board of Education approves a revised policy that adds such sales to the list of appropriate fundraising projects.
The policy, which provides general guidelines for fundraising groups, would allow those organizations to sell vinyl banners that are 2 feet by 3 feet or 2 feet by 6 feet - and would cost $500 and $1,000, respectively - to hang on "stadium fences during regularly scheduled home events," according to administrative regulations.
Banners would not be displayed for indoor events, with exceptions for the Carroll County Career and Technology Center and the Gateway School, which don't have stadiums.
"The regulations really provide some clarification on what is appropriate, what is allowed with regard to advertising on school property," said Dana Falls, director of student services, in an interview. "We don't want our schools to be big billboards for companies."
"We're pretty excited about the opportunity," Falls said to board members during last week's meeting.
The policy is scheduled to go before the board in July.
Some members expressed concerns with it.
"I would like to get a lot of input from the public," member Barbara Shreeve said.
Shreeve said the policy needed to explain that the banners "won't impair the vision of the spectators." She added that she saw the ads as mostly for athletic boosters, not others such as choral or drama groups, as their activities are usually inside.
Vice President Cynthia Foley took issue with the fact that ads could be sold to political candidates.
"It looks as though we are endorsing that particular candidate," Foley said. "I don't think the school system should be a forum for that particular area."
But legally, the school system can't ban political ads, while allowing others to participate, Falls and Superintendent Charles I. Ecker said.
"Then we would have no advertisements in yearbooks" or elsewhere, Ecker said. "If you allow advertisements from companies, you have to open up [to ads] from everybody."
Foley also questioned how principals would inform parents and students of the school system's neutrality, as the policy states.
As detailed in administrative regulations for the policy, banners would include a statement saying the school system "does not endorse the sponsor or message of this advertisement," Falls said.
Banners endorsing political candidates would be taken down right after elections, Falls said.
"The odds of [people] getting that message are not always so great," Foley said, especially if it's in small print. "That's the part that I have a little trouble with."
Ecker said an announcement could be made before an event, explaining that the school system does not endorse any business or advertiser.
Two schools - Century and Francis Scott Key High schools - already have piloted the banner sales, through music and athletic boosters, respectively.
Francis Scott Key was the first in the 2005-2006 school year, when the athletic boosters sold ads to local businesses. The fundraiser was "very successful," said Randy Clark, the school's principal.
"We felt like the local business community was very supportive of the program, and their financial support certainly was a lot of hot dogs that don't have to be sold," Clark said.
Amy Gilford, president of the school's athletic boosters, said they raised $17,000 that year.
"We had people lined up, ready to go to give us that money," Gilford said. "There's people waiting to invest in our schools."
If the board approves the revisions, Gilford said she already has someone committed to buying a banner for next year.
"I like the idea of people working to build enthusiasm and community through these banners," Gilford said. "We're ready to roll on this."