SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 14, 2010

Peabody school ads get national ribbing on 'Colbert Report'

By Jesse Roman
Staff writer

PEABODY — The Peabody School District got a "Tip of the Hat" Tuesday night from Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert.

The satirical political pundit and star of the popular "Colbert Report" applauded the Peabody School Committee's recent decision to start putting advertising on its notes home to parents.

"It's no secret that our public schools are cash-strapped. High school biology classes are so hard up for funding they have to dissect the school mascot," Colbert began in his popular segment "Tip of the Hat/Wag of the Finger."

"But rather than raise my taxes to pay for vanity items like desks and knowledge, one school district is using the free market," he said. "With all the money they'll be making on the field trip permission slips, maybe they can afford to go on field trips. So I'm giving a big tip of my hat to the Peabody Public Schools for turning our children into walking pop-up ads."

The School Committee decided last month to sell the advertising, which 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, including any type of notice, permission slip and more.

The School Committee, which has tripled bus fees, added new fees and laid off teachers, hopes to raise between $20,000 and $24,000 from the ads.

"It's not the kind of celebrity we necessarily want, but I was happy we got the tip and not the wag," said Peabody School Committee member Brandi Carpenter, who seemed to be a good sport about the national ribbing.

"I will say, on the positive side, maybe this will drum up some more revenue from the ads. Maybe now that we're on national TV, we'll get some response from faraway places," she said, laughing. "It's not every day (we're on national television), and it wasn't that bad, so I guess we'll take it."

Colbert saw more good about the idea than just dollars and cents.

"This is great news for kids, because now, when they take home a disciplinary note from their teacher, their parents will say, 'Brian, I'm so disappointed in you. I'm afraid I'm going to have to ground — hey, Mattress Barn is having a half-off sale on bed skirts!'

"I say why stop at school notes when there are so many other 'ed-ver-advertunities' out there? Why not let advertisers buy prime space on our tests? Instead of 'What is the Pythagorean theorem, how about, 'Which Taco Bell Gordita is the most Fresco Supreme?'

"... That obviously is a trick question. They're all equally delicious."