Hillsborough school board pans ads on district website
TAMPA - Doretha Edgecomb doesn’t like the clutter that advertising brings to online sites. “I’m annoyed by advertising when I go on a website,” the Hillsborough County school board member said Tuesday morning at a workshop. Therefore, Edgecomb doesn’t want to see advertising on the school district’s website. District officials brought the idea to board members during the workshop to see if they would be interested in adding a new stream of revenue.Broward, Seminole and Manatee counties contract with an outside company, Education Funding Partners, to allow advertising on their websites. Those districts control what types of businesses can advertise on their sites. Gretchen Saunders, chief financial officer for Hillsborough schools, said such a move would not cost the district anything and that all of the work would be done by the outside company. But board member Candy Olson said someone from the district ultimately would be responsible for being in charge of the advertising. That is one reason she could not support such a proposal. “Someone at the district level is going to have to manage it in their spare time,” she said. “This is not free of staff time at the district.” Edgecomb and Olson weren’t alone in their opposition. Most of the seven-member board panned the idea. “I don’t want to do this,” board member Carol Kurdell said. “It’s just too wide open for me to even consider it. I think this would muddy the water from the moment we started down that path.” The more views an ad gets, the more cash the district could make. Board members heard the district could earn an estimated $36,000 a year from such advertising. “I don’t think that’s a lot of money,” Edgecomb said. School district spokesman Stephen Hegarty said some districts across the state and nation have embraced the idea during recent tough budgetary years. They look at it as a way to make new revenue instead of always making cuts. “This is an opportunity,” Superintendent MaryEllen Elia said. “We don’t know how much we could get.” Board member Cindy Stuart said the district might want to research the issue down the road as a way to add revenue instead of just cutting programs. But for now, chairwoman April Griffin said, it’s not the time to dive into such a project. “We’re in the business of educating, and I want to keep it that way,” she said.