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CVU board resists rushing into decision on sponsorship

HINESBURG The Champlain Valley Union High School board tossed the sponsorship and naming hot potato back to the district administrators and CVU policy committee at their April 11 meeting after a short debate on the pros and cons. They asked for a draft policy on fund raising to guide the next steps toward rehabilitating the auditorium as well as other similar situations, for board discussion and approval, and encouraged the ad hoc committee to continue on its time line toward beginning work on the auditorium renovation in the summer of 2008. The debate of sponsorship, an increasingly popular method of supplementing tax dollars for public education programs and capital projects, began at CVU when the ad hoc committee studying ways to rehabilitate and improve the high school auditorium came to the board with a proposal for funding the $1.2 million project with a combination of tax money that would need approval by the voters in a bond vote and donations they would solicit from individuals and businesses in the area. The proposal sparked enthusiastic support from some board members, equally strong criticism from others, and a consensus that there needed to be a policy on the books before donations could be solicited or accepted especially if the donations might be linked to buying the right to have your name on a brass plaque on the back of an auditorium chair, or on a very large banner for sponsoring the whole project a fund raising strategy known as naming. At the April 11 meeting, Jeff Parker, a Shelburne representative to the board, spoke strongly in favor of sponsorship. He said, Were here to educate children and if it betters educational opportunities for the students, Im all for it. Joan Lenes, a Shelburne representative with many fund raising campaigns behind her including raising money for the school fields at Shelburne Community School and the Wellness Center at CVU, said, People want to contribute for the good of all, not to have their name on a plaque. We can have a fund raising campaign without resorting to oneupmanship. Elizabeth Skarie of Williston, a parent who has been on the ad hoc committee, said, You are tying our hands if we cant use this strategy. She pointed out that the campaign would be targeted to people, not big companies, and could encourage naming in honor of teachers, parents or children. Sarita Austin, a board representative from Williston and a member of the policy committee, said she has studied the policy that South Burlington School District wrote after having a debate about the sponsorship of their playing fields. She said their policy defined how fund raising should be handled and placed the final authority in the hands of the superintendent. Charlotte representative Lorna Jimmerson said she had a conversation with a member of the community who said that if someone offered a $1 million donation they should accept it. I agreed, but later I realized there is no need for us to sell out. Sarah Tischler, a parent and chair of the ad committee, said the auditorium is such an integral part of the high school, the place for classes, for special events such as the presentation recently to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges that won high praise from everyone who attended, as well as musical and drama performances, that it has a strong connection for many people in the community, alumni, parents, students and more. Donor recognition would be a phenomenal way to raise money, she said, and it could be a way to honor people whose names would raise excitement in the community: Art Scott, Audrey Moore and Jean True among them. Scott, Moore and True were drama and music teachers in the early days of CVU. Alumni like to think about being able to give back, and the chance to support something here creates an excitement that will inspire people to give in a lovely way, Tischler said.

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