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Siesta Key Thursday, May. 17, 2012 5 years ago

FULL STORY: School Board squashes ad talks

by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

Despite lingering budget woes, Sarasota County School Board members declined to take action regarding proposals for advertisements in schools at the May 15 monthly work session.

Although advertising is currently allowed on specific school websites and in charity runs (called jog-a-thons), school board members were reticent to consider changes to advertising policies that could allow website and school-bus advertising.

School board member Carol Todd twice asserted that giving national firms ad space in those areas is on par with “prostituting the school system.” She said the harsh comparison is justified and she would never support such a policy.

Jane Goodwin, the school board member representing District 5, was more restrained. She recalled the nostalgia of seeing “Sarasota County Schools” in black letters on the sides of yellow school buses. However, she was willing to continue consideration of advertising options in the future, however.

Frank Kovach, who was elected to District 3, took a pragmatic approach. He questioned whether advertising revenue would offset costs, noting that the Miami-Dade County School Board hired multiple people to oversee its policy. The monetary benefit of such a program is more than $200,000, according to estimates of proxy schools. However, adding a single employee at minimum wage would net out a chunk of that potential revenue.

The board didn’t take action on ads, but the county rental rates for the school’s fields and facilities got decidedly cheaper, with booking fees axed and rental prices for for-profit and non-profit firms dropping enough to break even.

Director of Facilities Services Jody Dumas said new rates are perfectly correlated with utility and labor usage ranging from $43 to $150 per hour. The rate change is in response to board member complaints about booking fees causing confusion for potential renters and conflict about profits earned under the previous rate schedule.

Sherri Reynolds, supervisor of Health Prevention Services for the county, shifted talks from fiscal to physical health in a presentation of changes to the school board’s employee wellness plan and employee health data collected for 2011.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, the plan’s sponsor, collected statistics that showed only 12% of school board employees received a free voluntary screening last year, which is designed to catch health issues before they become serious — and a serious burden on health-care costs for the county.

Using a grant from Blue Cross, the employee wellness plan will now include a $50 tax credit if an employee participates in an annual exam.

“If you saw the doctor in February, you’re eligible,” Reynolds said, noting the policy is retroactive. This will not affect the school budget, she said.

“(Return on interest) and costs are important and make a difference,” Reynolds said. “These (incentives) make a difference.

Sick Stats
2,425 — number of doctor screenings used by employees in 2011
12 — percentage of employees who had voluntary screenings in 2011
20 — percentage of employees who smoke
3 — percentage of employees who used counseling services
70 — percentage of employees considered “stressed”
61 — percentage of employees suggested to exercise
77 — percentage of employees warned about nutrition
50 — percentage of transportation and janitorial staff screened last year

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