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The Daytona Beach News-Journal, June 24, 2010

DELAND — Parents and others turning to the Volusia County schools’ website for general information or updates on how well their children are doing will soon be seeing advertisements as well.

The ads, to be sold by School Partnerships LLC under an exclusive contract with the School Board, are designed to raise money for arts and athletic programs, academic competitions and an electronic gradebook where parents will be able to check grades daily.

“With budgets being devastated as they are, we can’t provide the same opportunities,” Superintendent Margaret Smith told the School Board on Tuesday before it unanimously approved the advertising contract.

On a related matter, the board asked for more details before deciding whether to sign a contract with a statewide program that allows schools to earn cash back from online purchases made through links from their websites.

The School Board has cut more than $54 million from its budget since 2007 because of funding reductions, declining enrollment and rising operating costs. Another $31 million in cuts is being recommended for the year that begins next Thursday.

“Our schools are struggling. We cannot continue to do what we did with fundraising with community volunteers,” Smith said. “We can’t sustain that.”

Nancy Holman, a longtime school volunteer and founder of School Partnerships, approached Smith in 2008 about selling ads and naming rights for school facilities as a way to help plug the budget hole. The three-year contract approved Tuesday is a scaled-back version of one the School Board first reviewed last fall.

It gives School Partnerships the exclusive right to sell advertising for the school district’s website, its parent portal where children’s academic history can be checked and the electronic gradebook that will be launched in high schools this year where parents can monitor assignments and grades on a daily basis.

The school district will collect 60 percent of gross revenue from ad sales in the first year, with School Partnerships keeping the rest. The district’s share will rise to 75 percent in the second and third years of the contract. Advertising content will have to be approved by a school district committee.

“I’m ecstatic School Partnerships was given the opportunity to help with the disastrous budget situation schools are in,” Holman said Wednesday in a telephone interview.

She and Smith said it’s too early to predict how much money the advertising contract will raise in a year.