PEABODY — "This permission slip is brought to you by your local Ford dealership. Have you driven a Ford lately?"
OK, maybe that's a stretch. But it's not far off from the Peabody School Committee's latest step to raise money for the cash-strapped district.
On Tuesday, the committee approved selling advertising that will appear on notices sent home to parents from the district's eight elementary schools. The ads — 10 business-card-size placements — will appear on the back of each sheet of paper sent home to parents. That includes any type of notice, permission slip and more.
The initiative is expected to raise between $20,000 and $24,000 for the district. Although a relatively small amount, it could be a boost. This year, the district has tripled bus fees, added fees for nonprofits to use school buildings and cut teaching positions in response to declining state aid and revenue.
"It's a way of raising some revenue and a way of letting parents know which companies support our schools, and hopefully that will give them business," School Committee member Dave McGeney said. "They support us, we should support them."
The committee began to consider advertising dollars as a new source of revenue during budget talks last year. The committee built $15,000 into the current budget in anticipation of the advertising funds.
Various groups, such as the yearbook and drama clubs and the football team, sell ads in their publications to raise money for their individual groups. This schoolwide initiative, however, is new.
"It's the first time, to the best of my knowledge as the superintendent, that the school is selling advertising to offset school budget cuts," Superintendent C. Milton Burnett said yesterday.
The ads will be sold to local businesses at a rate of $300 per ad, per school. Each school sends about 10,000 letters home per year.
It's "an effective and very inexpensive way for you to reach this target market, while supporting your local schools," according to the proposed solicitation to advertisers that will be sent home with students sometime in the next month.
Initially, the ads will only appear on elementary school notices, so the committee can assess how the experiment is going. If it's a success, the advertising plan will likely expand to include the much larger — and potentially much more lucrative — Higgins Middle School and Peabody Veterans Memorial High School.
"Maybe this is just the tip of the iceberg for the potential of this thing, or maybe it's not a good idea at all," McGeney said. If it's not, "there will be nothing lost, nothing gained."
School administrators are still developing guidelines for the advertising — there won't be tobacco, alcohol or anything that could be considered salacious.
"It should be socially conscious advertising, appropriate for elementary school distribution," Burnett said. "Obviously, elementary schoolchildren are going to read it."
Pizza parlors, department stores, activity clubs and dance schools are examples of appropriate advertising, Burnett said.
Peabody isn't the only school looking at advertising as a way to raise some badly needed funds. Last week, School Committee members in Hull, a small town on the South Shore, reluctantly approved exploring a plan to sell advertising on the rooftop of the high school. It's designed to catch the eye of passengers on the dozens of planes that cruise past each day en route to Logan International Airport in Boston.
"We're not the only ones in this boat," said Ed Charest, a Peabody School Committee member. "It's a stretch, but everybody is looking for some extra money. I see this going over quite well."