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Marketing CG schools backed: School board hopefuls open to opportunities

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Center Grove schools has received $1 million in advertising to pay for sports, and the three candidates running for school board want to sell more ad space to local businesses.

But if Center Grove can make more money off ad sales, candidates Matt Prusiecki, Rob Richards and incumbent Carol Tumey want the funds to go toward academic and other extracurricular programs, not just sports. Prusiecki and Richards also said Center Grove should be free to market itself to prospective students, as long as it doesn’t cost.

The three candidates are running for two at-large seats on the school board. The two who are elected will work with Center Grove’s three other board members to approve the budget, contracts such as advertisement agreements, and changes to school and academic policies and evaluate the superintendent.

Tumey said Center Grove might not have been as willing to accept advertising dollars from businesses 10 years ago. But that was before enrollment levels stopped growing so quickly, limiting the amount of money the district receives from the state to pay for employees’ salaries and benefits.

Center Grove has multiple buildings and facilities that companies can pay to put their names on, but the school board shouldn’t open every classroom or inch of space for naming rights, Tumey said.

Prusiecki and Richards also said advertisements can help make up for Center Grove’s funding shortfalls, and both said they’re grateful to businesses that are willing to pay to support students in exchange for naming rights.

Center Grove’s largest advertising agreement came last summer, when local auto dealer Ray Skillman agreed to pay $1 million to cover students’ athletics fees and $50,000 to the fine arts program. In return, Skillman had his name posted on several athletic facilities, concession stands and scoreboards. Skillman requested his advertising money benefit the athletics department specifically.

But Prusiecki and Richards want to see advertisers support programs other than athletics, as well.

Any academic or extracurricular program could be sponsored through a business’s advertising dollars, said Prusiecki, who also is the Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson school superintendent.

Academic and other school

programs have had funding challenges, Richards said. Businesses considering advertising with Center Grove need to be open-minded about where the money goes, he said.

All three candidates said that the school board needs to be involved in the advertising process. The superintendent can negotiate a contract with a business, but the board should have final approval.

Prusiecki and Richards said Center Grove needs to be able to market itself in order to enroll more students and increase the amount of money it receives from the state.

Public school districts across Indiana have felt more pressure to increase enrollments, especially as state programs such as private school vouchers make it easier for families to choose where students attend school.

Prusiecki said school districts need to be free to market themselves and their achievements to students and families, but they also need to be financially responsible in those marketing efforts.

Richards said that the state’s changes mean school districts may have to start competing for students, although Center Grove shouldn’t budget much money for marketing.

Tumey said Center Grove is open to all students, and the school district doesn’t need to market itself to boost enrollment.

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