As part of the Board of Education‘s systematic review of several policies to align them with coding and mandate changes at the state level, one of the policies it is looking more closely at is Policy 1325, “Advertising, Sponsorships and Not-For-Profit Promotion.”

Working together with the BOE’s policy review subcommittee, superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith said at last night’s BOE meeting that it’s a policy that is “ripe for review,” and one that the policy review committee has been weighing for months. Smith said the committee considered a number of other advertising policies from several districts across the state as it redrafted Wilton’s.

“What we’re seeking to do with this policy, beyond updating the language, is give ourselves as a district more flexibility in accessing outside support,” Smith said. As an example, he mentioned how some other school districts allow ads they’ve solicited from local businesses to be published in school yearbooks. Smith said that Wilton basically has had a general prohibition of such types of advertising, although there have been exceptions for theater playbills, and similar projects.

As with other considerations, one of the factors driving the discussion is budget, as Smith explained.

“What we’re looking to do within clear parameters is give ourselves some opportunities, particularly in an era of very lean finances, opportunity to access other revenue sources.”

The first line in the draft version of the revised policy states:

“The Board of Education recognizes the value of advertising both as a way to enrich learning through certain curriculum-aligned programs, and as a way to generate revenue for extra- curricular activities.”

After that opening statement the policy then states a more conservative follow-up comment:

“However, the Board also recognizes the need to restrict access to our facilities, and protect our students from possible exploitation or inappropriate messaging. As such, the Board will exercise strict control over the sale of advertising space on facilities that are owned or leased by the Board, or initiatives under the direct purview of the Board. In addition, the Board will regulate third party sponsorships of programs and materials, and dissemination of non-profit solicitations to students.”

[Editor’s note:  The draft of the policy appears in full at the end of the article.]

During the discussion about the policy, Smith distinguished about possible advertising at sports facilities. The school does not have oversight over exterior sports facilities and fields. Because the sports fields are maintained by the town, any kind of advertising there–as well as income–would be under the purview of the town. The Board of Selectmen is currently exploring that possibility separately.

However, anything located inside the school buildings would fall under the school’s jurisdiction; athletic director Chris McDougal recently shared a program booklet from another neighboring district with Smith, who described it as “essentially like a playbill” with a good variety of advertising.

“It was a way to generate funds to support that town’s basketball program. I imagine activities like that we’d be able to engage in,” Smith told the Board.

BOE member Chris Stroup pointed out that the first line of the re-written policy specifies that advertising would be “a way to generate revenue for extra-curricular activities,” and suggested that the policy be more flexible.

Smith commented that the policy was written to designate such advertising revenues toward supporting extracurricular activities, “…because the operating budget is geared to supporting more of the core curricular operations.”

BOE vice-chair Christine Finkelstein, who sits on the Policy Committee, said that as the policy draft had been written, “…the whole point was to put flexibility and not lock us into anything.”

Smith added that “the spirit of the policy” would be that revenue generated by specific programs would benefit that particular program, as in the example of revenue derived from the Theater Department selling ads for a playbill would benefit the Theater Department.

That was echoed by BOE member Laura Schwemm, who suggested the need to have more discussion about directing funds, given that programs which put the effort and work in to solicit advertising should see the benefit of that revenue.

Ultimately the board decided to send the policy back to committee to continue to review and edit, and bring it back to the full board at a later date.