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State of the City Advertising sales, online programs underway for schools

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Posted: Friday, November 11, 2011 12:00 am

Selling advertising, pushing online education and using Rosetta Stone to teach English are among the ventures underway in Lodi Unified School District, board president George Neely said Thursday.

In a rapid-fire talk illustrated with a PowerPoint presentation, Neely said Lodi Unified faces numerous challenges but nonetheless is innovating and pushing academic progress. Included in his talk:

  • The district will sell advertising to help increase revenues, perhaps through banners in gyms or stadiums or on the district website.

“It is a way to bring in more money,” he said in a short interview after the presentation. “We’re still in the early stages with it.”

  • Rosetta Stone, a popular software program for learning foreign languages, is now being adopted to help some Lodi Unified students learn English.

“We’ve decided that all our students need to learn English quickly and well,” Neely said.

Rosetta Stone may also be used as a resource for teaching foreign languages, such as Spanish and German, in Lodi Unified.

  • A new school is being set up for special education students who are now going to private schools. About $1.2 million can be saved by bringing these students to a district-run program, to be housed at the site of Turner School.
  • Neely said the district wants to be known as an “education destination” again. He recalled how real estate ads once routinely touted that a home was served by Lodi schools.

“We want that kind of reputation again,” he said.

  • Students who have been expelled in years past have left the district, along with the state dollars for their education. Now the district wants to expand a school, the Katnich Academy, to keep those students — and dollars — in the district. If it is a success, the campus could attract students from other districts, too.
  • Online learning programs are allowing the district to attract new students — and new money.

“Are we going after students from other districts? Yes, we are,” Neely said.

He said the district has suffered dramatic and ongoing budget cuts. The state continues to postpone payments, requiring the district to borrow in the meantime to pay its bills. Last year, the district paid $450,000 in interest to borrow money until the state money becomes available.

To make ends meet, the district has reduced personnel expenses and increased its use of technology, including installing of solar systems and other energy-saving measures.

After outlining the cuts, he said the district is determined to not be hobbled by the fiscal challenges.

“This not our problem,” he said. “This is our situation, and we are adjusting to it and responding to it.”

Neely had a diverse career in the military and private industry before becoming a teacher and then joining the school board.

Being board president, he said, is richly satisfying.

“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” he said. “This one beats them all.”

Contact Editor Rich Hanner at richardh@lodinews.com.

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