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The Daytona Beach News Journal, May 22, 2011

By LINDA TRIMBLE, Education writer

DAYTONA BEACH — It took almost three years, but the first commercial advertisement recently popped up on the Volusia County schools website as officials turn to a new revenue source to help cope with $92 million worth of funding reductions since 2007.

“The beauty is the money we raise is staying in this district to help our schools and our kids,” said Nancy Holman, founder and president of School Partnerships LLC, which has an exclusive three-year contract with the School Board to sell the website advertising.

“I think it’s got great potential,” Superintendent Margaret Smith said of the fledgling advertising program. “Districts that have done this, even with the struggling economy, have found success. It’s just one other avenue to cope with diminishing resources for school districts.”

Flagler schools will also consider allowing more advertising, said Mike Judd, the district’s senior director of school operations. The School Board will need to decide where it’s comfortable allowing advertising and what type of companies will be able to purchase the space, Judd said.

Holman is a longtime school volunteer who spearheaded Volusia’s 2001 campaign for a half-penny sales tax to pay for school construction and a 2009 campaign to raise $100,000 to save junior varsity sports and academic competitions from elimination. She’s a former General Electric engineer and marketing manager.

She first floated her idea to Smith in 2008, suggesting the school district could help offset its drop in revenue by selling advertising and naming rights to its facilities.

The contract the School Board first approved in June 2010 is a scaled-back version of that proposal. It gives School Partnerships the exclusive right to sell advertising on the district’s website, including special sections of it that cater to parents checking their children’s grades and academic history online, school employees and job applicants.

Since then, the board has adopted an advertising policy covering everything from its website to athletic events and school publications like yearbooks. It also revised the contract with School Partnerships in February to give the firm a full three years since the ad program took so long to get started while the policy was being developed.

Introductory monthly advertising rates range from $100 to $2,500 based on the size of the ad and its placement on the website. An Ormond Beach physical therapy company placed the first ad on the home page of the school district’s website, myvolusiaschools.org.

“It’s a win, win for me as a small-business owner to get my message, my company known to the employees of the school system and to support the schools with their funding cut,” said Sarah Thomas, co-owner of Thomas Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy.

The school district will get 60 percent of the gross advertising revenue in the first year of the contract and 75 percent in the second and third years, with School Partnerships collecting the rest.

Holman said it’s too soon to know how much money the advertising contract will bring in.

Volusia School Board members have been impressed with reports from Orange County schools, which started an advertising program in September 2009 that will bring in more than $259,000 through next month. Orange County schools hired a sales and marketing manager to run that program.

School Board member Candace Lankford is hoping Volusia can join forces with the nine other member districts from the Central Florida School Boards Coalition to attract joint advertising from national firms. “The funding for education has been decimated, so we really need to continue to be innovative to keep as many dollars in the classroom as we can,” Lankford said.

Holman’s sales pitch is much the same. “The line is ‘help our schools while you help your business,’ ” she said.

–Staff Writer Annie Martin contributed to this report.