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Advertising brings in money for School District 196

The Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District made a little more than $70,000 in its first year of opening its website and some district facilities to advertising.

According to information reported to school board members Monday night the district made $63,482 last year through an advertising deal with School Space Media to sell ads at district athletic facilities. School Space sold ads on digital display boards at district schools and shared the profits with the district.

Finance director Jeff Solomon told board members that use of the boards by advertisers increased as the year went on, and as of Monday 80 percent of advertisers had renewed for the coming school year.

Most of the ads are from local businesses, but communication specialist Tony Taschner said School Space Media's goal is to sell more to national brands.

The district made another $7,260 last year through the sale of ads on its website. Add in $5,000 from ad sales on Eagan High School's site and another $500 from sales on Red Pine Elementary School's site and the district is beginning to approach the $20,000 target it set when it cleared the way for the ad sales as part of a larger discussion of budget adjustments.

The district currently has eight ads rotating on its main page. Most are for education-related businesses like Sylvan Learning Center and Mathnasium. Clicking on the main-page ad brings visitors to a site featuring all of the ads, and clicking on the ad there brings people to the business' website. EHS, the first district building to jump at the opportunity to advertise, has seven ads rotating at the top of its page. Red Pine has just two advertisers.

Red Pine principal Gary Anger said his school used a message on its email listserv to recruit advertisers last year. The school and its parents plan to be more aggressive with sales for the coming year.

Rosemount High School principal John Wollersheim and Rosemount Middle School principal Mary Thompson have both expressed some interest in adding ads to their sites, but neither school has put anything online.

Taschner said he is satisfied with the results given the limited effort put into letting businesses know the ad space was available. He plans to increase marketing efforts for the coming year, so long as he can fit the work in with his other job duties.

Opening up the new avenues for advertising - district schools have had ads for years in athletic programs - was never intended to be a primary source of revenue, but Taschner said it's hard to turn down an opportunity to make money as budgets shrink.

"Obviously it's not going to solve issues when we have major funding issues ... but every bit helps when you're trimming," Taschner said. "I also want the public to know we are looking at every possibility."

Taschner said he has not heard any negative reactions to the ads.

Other districts around the country have been turning to more obtrusive forms of advertising. Taschner said some districts in other states have sold ads on the sides of school buses, and districts in Minnesota have sold ads on students' lockers. District 196 had a meeting as it made its advertising plans with a company that sold locker ads, but there was no interest from board members in proceeding, and Taschner said he doesn't expect the idea to come up again anytime soon.