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School district considers in-school ads

| Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 8:17 a.m.

Ligonier Valley School District officials will look into incorporating advertising into its buildin gs, buses and website.

The district is working with Greater Latrobe School District, where officials initiated the conversation with Advantage3, a Milburn, N.J., company that connects nationally known brands with school districts and municipalities.

Latrobe officials asked districts in the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit to consider a resolution to voice their interest in pursuing negotiations with the company.

Part of those negotiations include the discussion of an initial fee that ranges from $7,500 for advertising in a high school to advertising in buses for $145 each.

Elementary School Assistant Principal Wayne Waugh said Advantage3 representatives were confident the district would make back whatever money they fronted in the transaction.

In addition, Superintendent Chris Oldham said the district has veto-power to reject any specific ad campaigns.

School director Jim Cunkelman expressed some hesitation because of the up-front cost, but directors ultimately voted unanimously to go forward with the negotiations.

The approval does not obligate the district to sign the contract, Oldham said.

“This is going on in school districts nationwide,” school director Jack McDowell said. “I have mixed feelings about it, but it's been very lucrative for some districts.”

In other news, the district approved the elimination of one school bus that had been transporting eight students to and from Laurel Valley Elementary School at a savings of $12,000 to the district. Other northern buses were able to accommodate the eight students, and the savings was earmarked for the district's field trip fund, which was slashed during last year's budget discussions.

“The elimination of the field trip fund is really causing a lot of issues,” Oldham said. “We've had to turn down a lot of opportunities for educational field trips because we just didn't have the funds.”

Officials also discussed the district's policy for public comment during school board meetings.

Last month, district solicitor Dennis Rafferty told resident Mary Raich her comments were out of line.

At the time, Raich was questioning whether school board members and outside educational consultants had undergone background checks to be on school campuses.

At that meeting, Rafferty said Raich's comments had turned into personal attacks, and she would not be allowed to speak at future meetings if her line of public comments continued in the same spirit.

Raich contacted the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania which issued a letter to the school board claiming Rafferty's reaction to Raich's comment created “an unconstitutional chilling effect of Mrs. Raich's First Amendment protected speech.”

Rafferty said at Monday's meeting that he wasn't objecting to what Raich was saying, but her unwillingness to pause and hear his objections to her speech.

“The board does not care about the content of comments,” Rafferty said. “But we have to follow the procedure that's been laid out in the board's policy. There must be some expectation of civility during these meetings.”

Jewels Phraner is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or