The Evanston District 65 School Board Monday requested that potential commercial sponsors of programs or equipment be vetted for compliance with the district’s equity commitment and don't compete with sponsorship arrangements by PTAs.
Raphael Obafemi, chief financial and operations officer, said that the goal of the proposed sponsorship program was to supplement revenue beyond property taxes and state and federal allocations.
He said other districts, such as Evanston Township High School, Wilmette and Arlington Heights, have a similar policy. For example, ETHS has banners in the gym sponsored by Northwestern University as well as other banners on the football field.
Obafemi said that the district had been approached by companies such as Wintrust and Northshore University Health System about sponsorships but current policy prohibits such arrangements.
He said that sponsorships might be used to supply a popup soccer field that could be used by students during recess, a cost of $70,000 per year that the district can’t afford. Another sponsorship opportunity could be resurfacing Chute Middle School’s outdoor basketball court.
Board members Sergio Hernandez and Anya Tanyavutti requested that the policy be amended to require that sponsors and their messages be reviewed using the Racial Equity Impact Assessment employed by the board and administration to evaluate policies and programs.
Tanyavutti also suggested that the guidelines avoid the use of subjective terms such as “tasteful” and apply more objective measures to ensure that sponsoring companies don’t mislead parents.
Superintendent Paul Goren suggested adding an out clause or morals clause to enable the district to end an arrangement if an advertiser engages in objectionable activities.
Board member Candance Chow wanted to be sure that these new sponsorships do not preclude or interfere with existing sponsorships arranged by school PTAs to supply jerseys and other equipment.
Board member Rebeca Mendoza expressed concern about the use of a marketing agent to identify potential sponsors, saying she’d prefer to use local companies rather than a sponsor from outside Evanston found by an agent.
The guidelines require that messages be approved in advance by the school board. In addition, “students will not be required to listen to, read or be subjected to commercial advertising in the classroom” nor will sponsors be allowed to distribute or disseminate advertising to students or staff.
Sponsorship recognition may be displayed at outside facilities and advertising may be linked from the district website or in district publications.
The revised policy may be available for review at the next board meeting.
D65 to consider commercial sponsorships (2/11/2019)