Funds Sliced, Teacher Sells Ads On Tests
November 22, 2008
RANCHO BERNARDO – Kevin Change said it was strange the
first time he saw an advertisement across the bottom of
his calculus test. But now he and his classmates look
“It's really interesting to see what it is each time,”
said Change, 16, a junior at Rancho Bernardo High
Some are pithy one-liners, hawking the names of local
businesses: “Brace Yourself for a Great Semester! Braces
by Henry, Stephen P. Henry D.M.D.”
Others are inspirational quotes, like “Keep the company
of those who seek the truth, and run from those who have
found it – Vaclav Havel.”
They only appear on the first page of an exam.
The unusual advertising may be here to stay, said
calculus teacher Tom Farber, who came up with the idea
to pay for his printing costs.
Farber said the money he gets for printing was cut this
year to about $300 for two semesters. Printing the
quizzes and tests costs more than $500, he said, and
doesn't include handouts that students download and
print on their own.
To reduce expenses, the Poway Unified School District
chose to trim materials and supplies instead of
personnel, Superintendent Don Phillips said. Each high
school in the district reduced its budget for such items
by 30 percent, but how that was accomplished was left to
each campus, he said.
Phillips said teachers have been reaching out to parents
for donations for a while, but Farber's idea is “one of
the more creative ones.”
Farber's customers pay $10 for an ad on a quiz, $20 to
be on a chapter test and $30 for a spot on a semester
final. Some of the quotes, either personal ones or by
famous people, are paid for by parents.
The messages must be appropriate and in good taste.
Farber hasn't received sponsorships from any major
retailers or store chains, but he hasn't ruled them out.
He said he would prefer to get ads from local
mom-and-pop stores, such as a tuxedo shop around prom
Farber said he could have decided to give fewer tests to
save money, but that would have meant students had less
practice for passing the Advanced Placement calculus
exam near the end of the school year.
Farber, a teacher in the Poway Unified district since
1992, said he has never had to ask parents for help
until this year. But with the state of the economy the
way it is, he said, schools might have to depend even
more on parents.
Farber said he came up with the idea over the summer. He
saw ads on public buses and sponsorships at Qualcomm
Stadium and decided to promote his idea at Back to
School Night in September. He collected $270 from
parents at that event.
“I haven't heard any negativity,” he said.
Farber said he has sold about $350 in ads, more than
enough to make up what the school budget doesn't pay
for. He said he still has ad space for next semester,
and whatever extra money he collects will go to the math
department for other teachers to use. Checks are made
out to the department.
Colleagues haven't copied his idea yet, Farber said, but
some have been asking parents for donations.
Students said they are paying attention to the messages.
Lauren Meyer, 17, a senior, said the ads are a good
solution to the budget problem.
Her classmate, Chris Nunez, 18, a senior, always looks
at the ads before he starts working on the questions.
Both said they enjoy the quotes.
“They're inspirational,” Nunez said. “Sometimes, they
help when the test is stressful.”
Luke Shaw, 17, was less enthusiastic. The senior said a
recent sponsorship that was the name of a structural
engineering company didn't do anything for him.
“I'm always hoping that someone will sponsor it with a
trig formula or something useful,” he said.
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