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POLL: Is selling naming rights in Newton schools a good idea?

2012 April 29
by Jerry Reilly

This morning’s Boston Globe West section featured a story about a proposal to sell the naming rights to various educational properties in Newton schools (e.g. althletic fields, auditoriums, science labs, art studios).

The pragmatic skinflint side of me says “what a great way to raise some money for technology at our overpriced Taj MaHigh”.  The more idealistic side of me says “its creepy when the name of virtually anything is for sale to the highest bidder, especially in our schools.

What do you think?

UPDATED GLOBE STORY

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59 Responses Post a comment
  1. Hoss permalink
    April 29, 2012 10:06 AM

    I love it. I suggested this many months ago on the Tab blog based on what I saw in other districts. It’s a wonderful idea but Ald Sangiolo is right when she says the funds should not go to technology. In my mind naming revenue should be enjoyed for a similar term as the rights — meaning, if selling the rights to the football field lasts forever, then the money should go to a permanent structure i.e., our capital fund.

    This will be controversial though, what if “Hoss’ Smoke Shop” wants rights, or “Chuckie Cheese Pizza”?

    Next I’d like whatever association governs athletic uniforms to allow schools to sell space on the uniform. There’s plenty of space on baseball and football pants. Why not? Also sell the rights to the High School level super ball, etc. This money is badly needed.

    These types of things work best if there is a marketing campaign to actively approach possible bidders. Do we have such a committee? Have they called Dunkin Donuts, for example?

  2. mgwa permalink
    April 29, 2012 10:19 AM

    At every university I’ve been associated with (public and private), plenty of things were named after donors. I don’t find it creepy at all.

  3. April 29, 2012 11:13 AM

    It wasn’t clear to me from the article why the city needs to cover the costs of running a Newton Schools Foundation fundraiser. Is the Foundation legally prevented from raising money to cover its own costs?

    Can someone who understands this provide an explanation?

  4. Miles Fidelman permalink
    April 29, 2012 01:48 PM

    It’s one thing to sell naming rights to build a new building, or endow a program. It’s quite another, and far less justified, to simply “buy technology.”

    But there’s a bigger issue. The stated mission of the Newton School Foundation is to “to enhance and broaden community support for public education
    and to provide private funding for innovative and challenging programs
    in the Newton Public Schools” at least that’s what it used to be, and what their web site still says. And they used to pursue this mission by giving grants to teachers to do new and innovative things in their classrooms.

    But, as their latest solicitation states, “NSF’s strategy recently shifted from a traditional granting model to become the official “fundraising arm” of the Newton Public Schools” – and their main allocation of funds seems to be buying computers and smartboards.

    Personally, I’m not giving them another dime. This is just wrong (I don’t think I can express my deeper feelings in polite language).

  5. TheWholeTruth permalink
    April 29, 2012 02:49 PM

    Miles says, “…This is just wrong (I don’t think I can express my deeper feelings in polite language).

    Ditto.

  6. Sean permalink
    April 29, 2012 04:07 PM

    From the Globe story:

    The foundation plans to launch a campaign this fall to raise between $3 million and $6 million for school technology in three years by selling the naming rights to public educational spaces, primarily in the city’s two high schools.

    Not sure if the appropriate response is “good luck with that” or “I’ll have some of what they’re smoking.”

    As far as I can tell, there are next to no examples of selling significant naming rights in public secondary school facilities, certainly none on the scale of $3 to 6 million. Keep in mind, too, that the more facilities the city sells the naming rights to, the less the naming rights to any single facility is worth.

  7. Mike Striar permalink
    April 29, 2012 06:41 PM

    I’ve never told this story before, because I like people [particularly public officials] to know that I can keep conversations confidential. It’s been nearly a couple of years now, so I’ll tell the story but leave out the names and some specifics…

    I was approached by two SC members looking for guidance on this naming rights issue. It’s not my field of expertise, but my family has been involved in the naming rights for a YMCA, JCC, and other institutions. Additionally, I had a bit of experience with corporate sponsorships dating back to my days as a concert promoter. I had also proposed selling naming rights as part of my 2005 mayoral campaign. So I’m fairly familiar with valuations and how to put these things together.

    During a very pleasant luncheon meeting, I told the two SC members that the city would have been much better served had we offered the naming rights to NNHS before the facility was actually constructed and opened. But I offered to put out some feelers, and get some sense of interest. I gave it a lot of thought for a few days, and selected a corporate target for North. I approached them through a personal contact of mine, casually and without any formal authority. Based on that dialogue, I was able to quickly determine that the target had a high level of interest, and the value of naming rights for NNHS was between $2M-$5M, payable over time. That was just for the name of the building alone. [Institutions often separate naming rights for building and campus, in order to raise more total funds].

    My children all went to NSHS, so I put some time into evaluating and designing a naming rights scenario for that school as well. I brainstormed informally with a public relations firm I had engaged for a separate business matter of my own, taking advantage of their creative expertise.

    South presents an entirely different naming situation than North. It’s not a high profile location. it’s not a new building. And the renovations to that school were completed too long ago to add any value to a name. Nevertheless, we came up with an extremely creative, non-corporate naming scenario for South, with an estimated value of up to $2M.

    I reported this to the SC members who had contacted me. I assumed they would run it by their colleagues and get back to me. This timing coincided with my very vocal criticism of the Principal at North for an incident with a former student that took place at a Thanksgiving football game. To this day I’ve never heard back about the naming rights, and have assumed that it was a result of my outspokenness regarding the afore mentioned incident.

    Selling naming rights at the two high schools is a no-brainer. It should have been done long ago. This community is great at lip service when it comes to saying how highly we value education. Unfortunately there’s a lot more talk than action when it comes to actually delivering a superior education. Our schools need all the money they can get, and I’m in favor of doing whatever is needed to get it.

  8. Janet Sterman permalink
    April 29, 2012 07:28 PM

    I’d comment but then I don’t know how long it would stay up here… ;-)

  9. Gail Spector permalink
    April 29, 2012 09:28 PM

    I’m curious as to why Miles and TheWholeTruth think it’s wrong for the NSF to become a fundraising arm for the Newton Public Schools, assuming that NSF is upfront about the shift in its mission.

    I thought the story in the Globe today was lacking some important information such as, like Greg pointed out — why is the city picking up some of the fundraising costs. I had the sense the Alderman Sangiolo wasn’t quoted completely in context either. Just my gut instinct. Perhaps she can weigh in.

  10. amysangiolo permalink
    April 29, 2012 09:42 PM

    Here is the link to the agreements between the parties. The Programs and Services Committee is expected to take this up at its second meeting in May for discussion.

    http://www3.newton.k12.ma.us/sites/default/files/newton_schools_foundation_03_26_12_0.pdf

  11. Miles Fidelman permalink
    April 29, 2012 11:15 PM

    In response to Gail: The Newton School Foundation served a very valuable purpose – providing funds for innovation – and in doing so, contributing to keeping the Newton schools on the forefront. Turning that into nothing more than a fundraising organization is a waste, and destructive.

  12. Sean permalink
    April 30, 2012 06:23 AM

    Mike,

    Let’s say that, in your proposed scenario, Acme, Inc. was willing to pay $2 million for naming rights to/at Newton North, what would they get? Would it become Acme High School? Newton North High School, brought to you by
    Acme? Newton High School, Acme campus?

  13. Miles Fidelman permalink
    April 30, 2012 09:04 AM

    More to the point… if Acme, Inc. buys the naming rights, does the track team become the “Road Runners” and which team becomes the “Coyotes?” (Sorry, couldn’t resist :-)

  14. Barry Cohen permalink
    April 30, 2012 09:14 AM

    Why don’t we just use everything in the city as a billboard? I mean, we could put company names on the city’s trees, fire hydrants, police cars, city hall, the library.

    Maybe I want to make a few bucks. I’ll just contract with Wheaties to call my house the “Wheaties Estate”, with a big neon sign over my front door.

    People, I guess, will do anything for more money.

  15. Gail Spector permalink
    April 30, 2012 09:53 AM

    @Miles: I agree that it’s a shame to lose what the Newton Schools Foundation was delivering. But I also think that the school community needs a good fundraising organization that can tap into the alumni with big names and deep pockets. Our neighbors — or at least Brookline — do it very well; why can’t we? I would have rather seen a separate organization launched to take on such an initiative, but I’m happy just to see some action. I remember having a talk with Jeff Young about this in 2005 for a column I was writing. He told me that a new fundraising organization was just a few months away.

  16. Terry Malloy permalink
    April 30, 2012 10:07 AM

    Other than the name of a school,-“Trip Advisor High School at Newton North”- , which Mike S guestimates at $2-3 mil, I’m curious, and dubious, about the market value of naming rights for schools. How much is “Siagal Productions Auditorium” really worth? Winkler Field at Newton South could be renamed“New Balance field”, for how much $ and how long?

    I do think we need to loosen up our rules regarding naming. There are some interesting naming/endorsement programs for specific projects that are available that we’ve not formerly been able to participate in. For example: Nike has a program where they help rebuild old tracks and provide new surfaces out of recycled track soles, all that’s necessary is a plaque at the location. Newton could not formerly participate in that program. I assume under the new rules they could?

  17. Hoss permalink
    April 30, 2012 10:15 AM

    We name tunnels after a baseball players, bridges and courthouses after politicians, but fear changing that? If the hallway at a school building is branded with the name of a local insurance company, what is the objection?

    Churchill Downs is a very profitable enterprise — it’s more than horse racing, it’s casinos and on-line ventures. That company sold the rights to their showcase race years ago. Whenever you hear mention of this coming Saturday’s race, it must be called “Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands”. If a huge for-profit enterprise thinks it’s smart to associate itself with another brand, why not allow gov’t to leverage property right for the benefit of private enterprise and us taxpayers?

  18. Marcia Tabenken permalink
    April 30, 2012 10:28 AM

    As an NSF board member, I want to address Greg’s/Gail’s inquiry. The city is NOT covering ANY of the costs of the campaign. The administrative costs of the naming rights campaign are born from funds raised by the campaign. The same applies to the Executive Director and staff positions. The city does not pay any part their salaries nor does it help to fund NSF in anyway.

  19. April 30, 2012 10:40 AM

    Thanks very much Marcia: So was story or perhaps Alderman Sangiolo mistaken? Here’s the portion of the article that I’m referring to:

    Over three years, the city would also have to pay the foundation an estimated $320,000 to cover the costs of the campaign, Sangiolo said.

    Among the expenses that Newton would cover are printing, advertising, part of the salaries of the foundation’s executive and development director, and a required audit. The costs would be about 5 percent of a potential $6 million campaign

    .

  20. Hoss permalink
    April 30, 2012 10:44 AM

    Marcia Tabenken — Is fundraising (marketing) done by the board, or have you hired out?

  21. Marcia Tabenken permalink
    April 30, 2012 10:45 AM

    Greg–yes, mistaken.

  22. April 30, 2012 10:51 AM

    Thanks.

  23. Marcia Tabenken permalink
    April 30, 2012 10:53 AM

    Hoss: NSF has had staff for years. We have one full time staffer and a part-timer who are working on the campaign, among other fundraising and community activities. The rest is of the work is being done by the volunteer Board and other volunteers serving in an advisory capacity.

    Your questions are a great help in putting together a Q and A that we’ll share with the community.

  24. April 30, 2012 10:56 AM

    Marcia: Are NSF now city employees?

  25. Hoss permalink
    April 30, 2012 11:15 AM

    If this is as successful as the budget projects, I’d like to see the Mayor take this up a few notches and do this with property such as City Hall, libraries, firestations. This kind of thing also serves a useful purpose in navigating large buildings since hallways and important rooms have memorable names for easy reference.

  26. Sean permalink
    April 30, 2012 11:34 AM

    I suspect that the reason many of us are uncomfortable with naming rights on school facilities is this unshakable, old-fashioned notion that delivery of high-quality universal free public primary and secondary education is a public trust. Looking for multi-million dollar donations to the project is tacit acknowledgment that the mission is failing.

    If the community is unwilling to adequately fund public education, let’s rethink the mission. Maybe highly-subsidized, highly-progressive tuition is the answer. (Tuition is not without its own set of issues.)

    But, some hazy notion that alumni or corporations will subsidize public education — outside of their normal tax obligations — doesn’t seem an adequate response to the larger problem.

  27. amysangiolo permalink
    April 30, 2012 11:46 AM

    I don’t know if mistaken is the right word – perhaps the article could have elaborated more on the agreement. The contract/memo of understanding in my previous posts is clear – NSF will be reimbursed for their administrative costs. That money will come out of the funds raised from the sale of the naming rights which are city assets. The City is engaging in a contractual relationship with Newton Schools Foundation for the sale of naming rights at Newton North and Newton South for the 21st Century Classroom Initiative – which is a program started by Newton Schools Foundation. Prior to this sale of naming rights program, Newton Schools Foundation had already launched this initiative – working in tandem with some (though possibly, not all) of the PTOs on raising funds for technology.

    The article states: “Over three years, the city would also have to pay the foundation an estimated $320,000 to cover the costs of the campaign, Sangiolo said.”

    I’m not sure that is a factually incorrect statement. The account that would be set up to receive these funds is similar to other City revolving accounts. Newton Community Ed and Parks and Recreation, for example, charges fees for its programs that are deposited into revolving accounts – those accounts, in some instances, pay for staff. In that instance, is the City paying the staff?

    In any event, the Programs and Services Committee will take this up at our 2nd meeting in May.

  28. Marcia Tabenken permalink
    April 30, 2012 11:56 AM

    Quick point–The city employs Parks and Rec staff. The city does not employ NSF staff.

  29. Hoss permalink
    April 30, 2012 11:57 AM

    Sean — There is of course significant funding for schooling coming from selling scratch tickets, keno and other lottery nonsense. I can’t think of a bigger, more criminal way to administer govt’s fiduciary responsibility to kids.

  30. Sean permalink
    April 30, 2012 12:02 PM

    Hoss,

    You’ll get no argument from me. It’s corrupt and cynical.

  31. Ted Hess-Mahan permalink
    April 30, 2012 12:29 PM

    It would have been more accurate to report that NSF’s administrative costs for raising money from naming rights would be reimbursed out of the funds raised and deposited with the city. The relevant provisions of the Addendum to the Memorandum of Understanding are as follows:

    2. The MOU provides for 100% of proceeds from the donations for Named Space gifts to be turned over to one or more restricted City accounts (“The City Fund”) for use in accordance with Campaign objectives. Reimbursement to The Foundation will be made from the City Fund back to The
    Foundation for such portion of the Campaign’s documented costs that are attributable to the sale of naming rights, after review and approval as outlined in this Addendum. This Addendum is intended to address only reimbursements to the Foundation made out of the City Fund.

    * * * *

    4. Following acceptance of The Foundation’s request for reimbursement of administrative and actual costs by NPS, such request shall be placed on a payment warrant by NPS and forwarded to the City for payment from the City Fund, provided that reimbursement can only be made from funds actually on deposit in such Fund. Neither the NPS nor the City shall have any obligation to reimburse The Foundation from any source other than funds on deposit in such Fund.

    To clarify, Chapter 70 funds from the state are for public education; lottery revenues are distributed to cities and towns according to a local aid formula established by the legislature and are not earmarked for any specific programs, allowing cities and towns to choose how they will be spent.

  32. Marie Jackson permalink
    April 30, 2012 12:29 PM

    As I said above, I’m of two minds on this issue and not firmly for or against it. I’m surprised though how little discussion there’s been about the propriety of selling naming right to facilities in public schools.

    In the past named facilities were nearly always named after people that had contributed something to the general well being of the institution or the community. Shifting away from that tradition, and treating the names of public facilities as merely advertisement opportunities to be sold to whoever’s got the cash seem a bit tawdry. In a school setting in particular, it just seems to send a message that everything is merely a market … or maybe I’m just haven’t got with the program yet and realized that everything IS merely a market.

  33. Marie Jackson permalink
    April 30, 2012 12:30 PM

    Sorry, that previous post (and this one) are from Jerry Reilly. He seems to have hacked Marie’s account

  34. Hoss permalink
    April 30, 2012 12:47 PM

    Jerry (Maria’s hack) — Our neighbors have sent a repeated loud and clear message that they will not fund anything above a pool that expands at a rate of 2.5% a year. Inflation of insurance alone has killed that funding. So City Hall listened and got creative about it. Bravo! Getting instructions to walk the Wellesley Insurance hallway to the Builder’s Lumber Workroom is not insulting to me

  35. Hoss permalink
    April 30, 2012 12:50 PM

    BTW — the City of Brockton also has a Foundation that transfers tax money to cover any expenses. They used the Foundation years ago to build a FOR-PROFIT baseball stadium and attached “convention” center. The baseball team reneged on lease payments and went bust, and the convention center idea hasn’t panned out. So as an example of what not to do with Foundation ideas– that City is obligated to use tens of millions of tax money and cherry sheet funds to pay off the bond debt of this awful idea.

  36. amysangiolo permalink
    April 30, 2012 12:52 PM

    Interesting point Marcia – but that leads to another question. If the sale of naming rights is a concept which is embraced by the community, perhaps instead of going through your organization, the city should take this on itself?

    The issue regarding reimbursement of cost is simply this: NSF and its staff is already engaged in a 21st century technology campaign. NSF is being given an opportunity to enhance its campaign and raise potentially significant amounts of money. What’s up with the NSF staff admin costs of $70K/year?

    Gail: I’m not necessarily of the mindset that the sale of naming rights for North and South to fund NSF’s technology drive is the best use of the funds or the best way to leverage the amount that could otherwise be raised for programs. I understand that the agreement between the parties does not necessarily restrict funds raised for the sale of naming rights to the technology drive and look forward to hearing more specifics about that.

    Everyone else: The contract and memorandum of understanding between NSF and Newton Public Schools has already been signed by both parties and the Mayor. The only role the Board has is to establish an account to hold these funds – since the naming rights at both North and South has been deemed to be city assets. I didn’t mean to misrepresent or misstate the payments that will be made to NSF for carrying out the sale of the naming rights.
    I just happen to be of the view that funds coming in from the sale of naming rights are city assets and therefore any payments made from those assets as being payments from the City.

  37. TheWholeTruth permalink
    April 30, 2012 06:00 PM

    @Gail,

    I’m opposed to this because I fear that like so many other things, it will get out of control. I’m also a traditionalist at heart and like “Marie Jackson”, I think places should be named for people of importance, not based on the highest bidder. We are bombarded with commercialization at every turn in life and I’m not in favor of having it take over our schools.

  38. Julia Malakie permalink
    April 30, 2012 09:51 PM

    Please tell me we’re not considering changing the actual names of schools, as in “New Balance High School” or “Genzyme High School.” Has this been done anywhere, naming a school for a corporation rather than the city or town where the school is located, or to honor a person? I’m even leery of naming things after living people, who still have time to screw up, although it’s worked out okay in Lowell. How would people feel about having “Goldman Sachs High School” or “Enron High School” on their diploma or athletic uniforms?

  39. Miles Fidelman permalink
    April 30, 2012 11:48 PM

    It would be fine with me if someone wanted to donate, say, the “New Balance Athletic Building” or the “Viacom Media Center” – you know, major capital contributions (like say, MIT’s Stata Center or Green Building), but that ship has sailed (though… we seem to have a bunch of elementary and middle schools that need work).

    On the other hand, the “John Q. Random Smartboard” seems sort of silly.

  40. amysangiolo permalink
    May 1, 2012 10:12 AM

    Follow up article from the Globe;

    http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/newton/2012/04/newton_naming_rights_campaign.html

  41. Bill Brandel permalink
    May 1, 2012 10:35 AM

    What part of “public school system” is confusing, here?

  42. schlock permalink
    May 1, 2012 11:12 AM

    If there are folks willing to donate $$$ for a name and a plaque, find a way to accept the donations. Amy since this is a BOA financial vote, won’t the full Board require a 2/3 majority? and seeing it will most likely be brought up in the summer, is Lenny scheduling the item and precounting heads?

  43. amysangiolo permalink
    May 1, 2012 12:11 PM

    This vote is only to create a fund to accept and hold the proceeds raised from the sale of naming rights which are city assets. I believe only a simple majority vote of the Board is needed to establish the fund.

  44. Mike Striar permalink
    May 1, 2012 01:14 PM

    @Sean– Sorry for the delayed response. The specific corporate naming scenario I discussed for NNHS was similar to the TD Banknorth Garden, in that part of the name would have remained and the other part would have been replaced.

    Many of us can recall a time when most major league sporting venues were named after people, geographic location or for the team that played there. That’s obviously changed these days, and most of them carry the name of a corporate sponsor. Even municipally owned sporting venues and other government owned structures sell naming rights. I think it’s completely inconsistent to argue that our schools need more funding, and then reject the notion of selling naming rights based on some personal notion of maintaining a perceived purity in our schools. That mentality is simply depriving our schools of an additional funding source and our children of a better education.

  45. Sean permalink
    May 1, 2012 01:38 PM

    Mike —

    No problem (re: delay).

    Just to be clear, the name would be Acme High School, correct? Logos on sports jerseys to be separately negotiated.

    I don’t really have any objection to naming rights for schools in principle. There are some names you’d want to stay away from in the name of health (Coca-Cola High) or because there’s only so much consumerism we should thrust on our children (Abercrombie & Fitch Middle School). (Of course, the naming rights are most valuable precisely to those firms likely to get school kid dollars from the name exposure.)

    My main points continue to be that a) it’s a pipe dream. The numbers tossed around are completely divorced from reality. And, b) it’s a band-aid on a more structural set of problems related to the ongoing viability of funding public-school education principally through property taxes.

    If we want to have public services, we can’t keep looking for someone else to foot the bill, whether it’s the state blindly pursuing casino revenue instead of, to name one thing, raising the gas tax to a level that begins to pay the bills, or the city looking for “deep pockets” to fix our school funding gaps.

  46. Bill Brandel permalink
    May 1, 2012 02:06 PM

    A public school is just that. It is a reflection of a community’s standard for education, and their commitment to that. In return for a strong school system, thousands of property owners in Newton watch their home values inexorably increase over time. As such, they have a clear and direct reason to remain invested in the quality of our schools, as well as other municipal functions.

    In my view, it is wrong-headed to dilute the connection between public an public schools. Already, parents are doling out a lot of money to pay for activities that should be included as part of the public school bargain. Next, corporate sponsorships? Math class brought to you by “Grand Theft Auto 3?”

    It’s time to stop being weasels about this. Either make do with the public funding that we get, knowing that it reflects our values, or ask the public to provide more. But it’s a mistake to look for loopholes out of that compact.

  47. Jerry Reilly permalink
    May 1, 2012 02:16 PM

    Mike,

    I think it’s completely inconsistent to argue that our schools need more funding, and then reject the notion of selling naming rights based on some personal notion of maintaining a perceived purity in our schools

    Just because we may want to have increased funding for the schools, it’s not inconsistent or hypocritical to consider the pros and cons of a particular funding source. Even the most ardent supporters of selling naming rights will have considerations other than will it raise money – Winston Light Elementary School anyone?

    So by all means lets have the discussion, but let’s not pretend that selling naming rights has no negatives or potential for downsides.

    Personally, I think it’s a bit sleazy. Even so, for a reasonable amount of money and a reasonable sponsor I’d hold my nose and support it for just the reason you mentioned – bolstering our schools with some new funding.

  48. Hoss permalink
    May 1, 2012 02:47 PM

    Rejecting naming rights because of standards works both ways — branding is utterly precious to an enterprise, why would a great company want naming rights to a whole school such that any negative publicity and declining educational standards points back at them? Athletic fields, auditoriums, hallways are different.

    Newton has a very positive and measurable accounting goodwill. The measure starts with the premium we’ve put on Newton property above similar districts and that sum must be in the billions. That goodwill is with municipal property as well. This is one of the very few ways to tap that goodwill fund and enjoy it for a great benefit of education

  49. Mike Striar permalink
    May 1, 2012 07:00 PM

    @Sean– I can assure you it’s not a “pipe dream”, and the numbers I’ve mentioned are not “divorced from reality.” They are reality! Unfortunately we cost ourselves a lot of money by not having a sponsor on board when NNHS opened. And it’s important to keep in mind that while a corporate sponsorship will work at North, a different type of sponsorship should be undertaken for South. But there are million$ on the table, and we should go get them…

    Having said that, I can already see that the process is flawed. Too many people involved. It’s the wrong approach. Scrutiny is fine, but no corporate sponsor is going to involve themselves in a process that is lengthy and subjects them to ridicule. If that’s the approach, we’re all wasting our time.

    @Jerry– There are a lot of corporate sponsors who make more sense than Winston. Instead of thinking of the worst, spend a few minutes thinking about the best. You’re a creative guy, and you’ll be surprised what comes to mind when you give it a little more thought.

    @Bill– This is not a “loophole.” It’s an alternative revenue source. Exactly what Newton needs. You wanna talk about “loopholes”, how about CPA? Personally, I support CPA, but that’s much more of a “loophole” than naming rights.

  50. Sean permalink
    May 2, 2012 07:12 AM

    Mike,

    If I see a single community in the country cashing a big check for public school naming rights (stadiums, notwithstanding), I’ll apologize profusely to you and others for referring to the pursuit of naming rights as a pipe dream. Maybe Newton’s on the bleeding edge, here. I’m skeptical.

    If corporate sponsorship of public buildings is deterred by the little bit of scrutiny that’s been thrown at it so far, it’s a doomed effort.

    Hoss,

    You make an excellent point about the favored position that Newton is in. Is it fair to tap the goodwill?

  51. Bill Brandel permalink
    May 2, 2012 07:35 AM

    Mike: Nothing is free. Not NNHS or even accepting commercial funding. Everything comes at a price.

    There is an insidious effect of letting the community off of the hook for making hard decisions about school funding. Schools belong to the entire community, which benefits from a strong school system. If these outside funding channels persist and expand, it only becomes increasingly difficult to get the public to provide funding when needed. This is already happening with fees, fund-raisers, etc. Now this. Perhaps it is all well-intended, but it ultimately undermines the compact that exists between taxpayers and the public system.

    I will repeat and conclude: Nothing is free.

  52. Sean permalink
    May 2, 2012 07:58 AM

    There is an insidious effect of letting the community off of the hook for making hard decisions about school funding. Schools belong to the entire community, which benefits from a strong school system.

    Well said, Bill. Well said.

  53. Tricia permalink
    May 2, 2012 09:21 AM

    This is not a new practice, it’s been going on across the country for at least the last decade. From a 2006 NY Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/26/education/26schools.html?pagewanted=all:

    Now, naming rights have expanded nationwide — and far beyond athletic facilities. Strapped school districts have begun a blitz of new efforts to attract private money. Many have hired development officers to seek out their community’s big donors, and consider everything from corporate sponsorship of the high school prom to selling advertising space on school roofs.

    Oh, and Sean – is this check big enough for you? Also from the article:

    Microsoft, a partner in designing the school, has already committed $100,000 for the Microsoft Visitors Center.

    Disclaimer: My citing of this article should not be construed as a defense of or support for the current proposal in Newton – I’m just pointing out what’s already going on across the country.

  54. Lisap permalink
    May 2, 2012 09:45 AM

    Maybe we can get Kraft Foods to underwrite the whole city so they can change the name to “Fig Newton”. Then we can have -
    Fig Newton North High School;
    Fig Newton South High School;
    Fig Newtonville
    Fig Newton Centre
    Fig Newton Corner
    Fig Newton Highlands.

  55. Miles Fidelman permalink
    May 2, 2012 10:46 AM

    Well, Teddy Mann got great mileage out Fig Newton’s – not sure he monetized that, though.

    Having said that – it’s one thing to sell naming rights for a big-ticket item – a building, a program, an endowed chair. But we seem to be talking about selling naming rights to support purchasing computers. This just seems silly, unrealistic, and not well thought through. And… if pursued in the current form, could foreclose future opportunities to go after serious dollars in a more targeted way. (It sure would have been nice to have had New Balance kick in money toward a “New Balance Athletic Center” or Sumner Redstone kick in for a “Viacom Media Center” or endow a “Viacom Media Program” in one of the high schools. Let’s look to naming rights for the next BIG project. Then again, maybe we can sell brass plates to fund individual classrooms, or computers – though somehow, the salesman in me tells me that we’d have to be funding something more than a few computers or smartboards – people don’t splash their names across catch up purchases.)

  56. Sean permalink
    May 2, 2012 11:44 AM

    Tricia asks (about a $100,000 naming rights deal):

    Oh, and Sean – is this check big enough for you?

    Nope.

    The folks behind this push in Newton are projecting opportunities in the millions of dollars. The Philadelphia school described in the article had all sorts of high-dollar naming opportunities, and one of the richest companies in the world spent six figures. And, there’s no indication that they were able to relieve anybody else of their money.

    Interestingly, there is one attention-getting deal mentioned in the article: $500,000 for naming rights to a high-school stadium in Florida. High School football is huge in Florida. The bank bought the rights (a 30-year deal, or a less attention-getting $17K per year) for the eyeballs. We have nothing remotely close for attendance opportunities in Newton public schools.

    Incidentally, the bank that bought the rights was subsequently closed by federal regulators and taken over.

    Again, nothing I’ve seen suggests that there really is potential for multi-million dollar income streams. And, folks have been trying to milk this stone for years. This is, sorry Mike, a pipe dream.

  57. Lisap permalink
    May 2, 2012 12:01 PM

    I too wonder how NSF came up with the valuation of $5-6 million. Both the MBTA and the Chicago Transit Authority partnered with IMG Worldwide in an attempt to come up with a valuation of naming rights. Meaning no offense to the good folks at the Newton Schools Foundation, but this represents an enormous leap forward from their annual average of $250-300,000 in fundraising ability. According to NSF’s 2010 990 they reported $165,180 in revenue (they paid out $100,825 in grants, received $298,050 in grants and contributions) and in 2008 they reported a loss of $249,610 (they reported an investment income loss of $195,695, grants and contributions of $260,574). This presents a very different scenario since it actually involves the sale of a public asset and, as such, demands a full vetting of who, what, where, when and how before this undertaking is turned over to any organization.

  58. Lisap permalink
    May 2, 2012 12:04 PM

    *Point of clarification: the NSF 990 I am referencing is for the reporting period beginning 7-1-2009 and ending 06-30-2010.

  59. Barry Cohen permalink
    May 2, 2012 05:00 PM

    How could naming anything within a high school be worth much in advertising? The school is attended by a thousand or so students, and other people come and go for various reasons. But that’s not a lot. Companies pay millions for a simple one-time spot during the Super Bowl because millions of people watch it.

    Maybe if they named the high school itself, not a room within it, like the “Oreo Cookie North High School”, then every time an article appeared disparaging the school for excessive cost, the name would appear. That would be more exposure, but, I don’t think it would be flattering, and I think that a high school in Newton should be called Newton……..High School, or it should be named after some famous resident, past or present. Hmmm, may Setti Warren High School. He’s trying to make himself nationally famous.

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