"Schools Should be Run Like a Business" - OK, Let's!
The Dim Bulb
The Occasional Musings of an Educator
by Michael Keany
The brain is capable of performing 10 quadrillion (that’s 10 to the 16th) “calculations,” or synaptic events, per second using only about 15 watts of power. At this rate, a computer as powerful as the human brain would require 1 gigawatt of power. Maybe a dim bulb isn't really as dim as it seems.
The photo above is the Livermore Centennial bulb, the world's longest burning electric bulb.
March 25, 2011
With tongue firmly in cheek ...
“Schools should be run more like a business.” Maybe they’re correct. In tight times, business look carefully at expenditures and try to reduce their overhead as much as possible. Certainly, pressure is intense on schools to do the same. But wait, businesses also look to increase revenues. Oops! We can’t do that. Maybe we should.
What follows is the musings of a frustrated educator, with tongue firmly in cheek, a full week before April 1. Wink, wink. Or as the kids say, ;) .
Advertising - There, I said it, and the Earth did not stop spinning.
Ah, the dirty word. Schools can’t get into advertising; it’s not ethical. We have a very valuable commodity; eyes with money to spend. Let’s examine a number of ways, in increasing order of distastefulness, that schools could profit from advertising.
- Roof tops. Presently some schools sell or rent space to wireless companies and no one minds because it’s out of sight. A high school in Denver leases rooftop space to Dr. Pepper for a large flat sign painted the roof because, fortunately enough, the school is directly in the Denver airport’s flight plan. Thousands of thirsty travelers get a suggestion as they look forward to landing. No one sees the roof. I think the take was something like $50K per year. We have Republic and MacArthur. Why not?
- Athletic venues. This is a little more intrusive, but not terribly so. What spectator at a game today, professional or collegiate, does not expect to experience some advertising? How about some tasteful swooshes? If a Little League team can be sponsored by the Acme Cesspool company with the name on the uniform, why not a high school?
- Hallways. Some enterprising advertising firms have begun trying to market hallway video monitors with looped ads. You’ve been exposed to these at supermarket checkouts, airport waiting areas, and yes, even in some restrooms. Kids spend an average of four minutes in the hallways eight or nine times a day. That’s enough time to absorb about 30 commercials. Ads could be pre-approved so nothing inappropriate would be shown. Why, we could even throw in some commercials for Pythagoras or causes of the Civil War, or do some commercials in Spanish or French.
- Social media. Let’s finally get into the 21st Century. Give the students e-mail addresses, create a school district presence on Facebook, tweet, text, blog and provide apps. Just think of the monetary gains. Google is printing money; why not schools?
- Print. Just think about all the paper our students look at each day. Why not some small trademarks on each sheet? “This homework is brought to you by Adidas.” Well, maybe that would not be a big seller, but you get my drift. Maybe coupons would work? “Tough test? Reward yourself with a Hershey bar. 20 cents off!” Some schools sell ads in student newspapers and yearbooks, not to mention theater programs, athletic scorecards, etc. Is it such a big jump?
- Charge everyone. Look at your college fairs or days. Universities send paid representatives on regular tours. We provide space and access because we are providing our students with a service. Hold on! Higher education is big money. Maybe they should be paying us to set up that table in the hallway or gym. College scouts? What’s wrong with a fee? Your school’s choral group performs at the local Kiwanis function? How about a healthy donation to the school’s music program? (Starting to get a little uncomfortable? You can stop reading now, or you can continue with morbid curiosity. Wink, wink.)
- Placed ads. Just the hallways and restrooms to begin with. Sure it’s nice to put up examples of student work, but that doesn’t pay the bills. Businesses don’t take up their valuable wall space with exceptionally well-done employee spreadsheets. Push the product! What about floor space? Supermarkets do it all the time. How about when all the computer terminals log on, or when the Smartboard fires up?
- Broadcasts. We could start with just before and after school with selected, approved music in the hallways, interspersed with pleasant ads, again pre-approved, to catch the ears of those students without iPods in their ears. OK, maybe not a big market.
- Buses. Just think of all those boring yellow buses traveling all over. The potential for mobile signs throughout the community is stupendous. I bet the transportation budget could be nicely subsidized, even if you gave the bus company a 50/50 split. Buses that transport big people have signs on every available inch of space and our students see those everyday. Why not control some of this content?
- Shill. At every educational conference, there is a healthy presence of vendors, who rent space and hopefully entice potential customers with displays and giveaways. Many professional organizations subsidize their conference expenses with this income. What do you think companies would spend to have paid educators wandering the halls of these conferences, just casually dropping hints about the benefits of certain programs or products? We do it anyway, why not bring in a little extra for the school district that sponsors your attendance at the conference? No need to lie or fabricate, just tell the truth but do it for a price. “Ticonderoga pencils, the official pencil of the Franklin School District.”
- Credit and debit cards. Colleges do this all the time. I bet many residents would agree to get “plastic money” cards with emblems of the Franklin Warthogs, the local mascot. I’m not sure of the financial arrangements here, but everybody seems to do this so there must be money in it. Maybe you could strike a deal with a local supplier to get reward points for school supplies.
Use your space. Let’s face it, a lot of our special space and unique resources goes unused much of the time.
- Rent your kitchen to small, independent caterers before and after school. Many restaurants do it and earn extra income.
- Open the weight and exercise rooms to paid gym customers in the evening. You could even sell memberships.
- Local adult drama or choral group? You got the stage and auditorium if they have the bucks.
- Small entrepreneur needs a rentable office space for a meeting or presentation. What else do you need that Board Room for? It’s got comfy seats, presentation hardware, and you could even provide a greeter or receptionist by the hour.
- Near a LIRR station and have some extra parking? Sell annual permits. It might even pay to create some extra spaces.
- Low-end catering and space utilization. Rent the cafeteria in the evenings, especially on the weekends to special functions and events. Many VFW halls, volunteer fire departments and Elks’ lodges do it, why not schools. Who knows, it might catch on as a fun, low-cost destination wedding venue in these tight times.
- Show classic films in your auditorium for reduced ticket prices. Don’t forget to sell popcorn. On my last trip to the movies, that looked like a big money maker.
- Computer power. Most of the day, and certainly most of the evening, district servers go underutilized. I may not understand the technology behind it but I believe many small companies would value the storage and processing power of district servers. I would guess sufficient filters and firewalls could be established.
- Rent space in the school after school to provide SAT prep and Sylvan-style study centers. Imagine, even, teacherpreneurs renting space for tutorials, sports lessons, dance, foreign language, and computer lessons. Oh my!
- Tool rental. Lots of specialized tools and equipment could be rental when it is sitting idle after normal hours. Rent your Bobcat by the hour.
Yes, I’m well aware that there are probably a host of laws against much of this but we need to act like businesses. When a law gets in the way of good business it is deemed a “bad” law and gets changed. Yes, I’m aware that there are a lot of other issues such as insurance, policies, supervisory manpower, potentials for misuses and abuses, and on and on. But business seems to get around or over all those concerns and still makes money.
These are tough times. Perhaps the toughest we’ve seen. Maybe drastic measures are called for. I can see a CEO of a financially-strapped company banging on the conference table as she lectures her executive staff. “We’re not going to survive unless we all get out there and sell, sell, sell!!” Well, maybe we need to sell too.
Stranger things have happened. We need to act more like business, right? Wink, wink.
By the way, General Electric earned $14.2 billion last year — $5.1 billion of it from U.S. operations — and paid no federal taxes, The New York Times reports today.