The Johnson City Board of Education on Monday unanimously approved a proposed trademark license agreement regarding Science Hill High Schools’ continued, yet temporary, use of Duquesne University’s logo of a grimacing top-hatted man.
The total cost, notwithstanding any other requests by the university, is about $22,500.
“What would happen if we didn’t live up to the agreement?” board member Tim Belisle asked Lee Patterson, Johnson City Schools’ human resource director and legal counsel. “Would there be penalties?”
“Yes, they’ll basically take us to court,” she answered.
Under the proposed agreement, which still is in rough draft form, the school system would pay the university a licensing fee of $5,000 in annual installments of $1,000 beginning Oct. 15. The city of Johnson City is not responsible for any financial restitution.
The agreement, which drew minimal conversation during the board’s Monday night meeting, acknowledges the school system’s unauthorized use of the logo in connection with the school’s athletic program. However, the proposed agreement asks for continued use of the midfield logo at Kermit Tipton Stadium and its competition wresting mat for a term of five years.
SHHS Athletic Director Keith Turner has received a $17,500 quote on the cost of removing the logo from the football field and replacing the turf, Patterson said. This cost, and the annual payment, would be derived from revenue generated by an agreement between Johnson City Schools and Coca Cola Co., which supplies soft drinks.
Should the logo on the field be damaged, or if it needs to be replaced during that time, it will be up to Johnson City Schools to pay for it.
The proposed term for the use of student athletic uniforms is two years. Within that time, the school system cannot buy, order or replace any decals, stencils or patches onto any uniform bearing the Duquesne logo.
The school system would be allowed to continue to sell certain promotional items until all stocks are depleted, but Duquesne would receive all proceeds from promotional items sold after June 15, 2012.
Johnson City schools proposes to discontinue the use of the Duquesne logo on all other unauthorized items within 30 days of the agreement becoming final. This includes the school bulletin, website, in its fundraising campaign, scoreboard, vehicles and shirts. In fact, the band already has begun to remove the logo from its hauler.
Duquesne now must OK the agreement before it becomes valid.
“Their lawyer has been very responsive, so I don’t believe it will be long before we hear from them,” Patterson said. “I don’t anticipate any problems.”
Christine Ethridge, an attorney with the Pittsburgh law firm K&L Gates, is representing the university.
Meanwhile, an hour-long meeting between the Board of Education and the City Commission before the board’s regular meeting produced lots of questions, a few doubts and an overriding consensus that there likely will be only one shot at letting voters decide if they want to shell out an extra one-quarter cent in local sales tax to help fund schools.
BOE Chairwoman Kathy Hall agreed that placing the measure on either the August or November ballots, instead of trying to place the vote on the March ballot, could give educators a better chance at success.
“There has been talk of moving it back to August, or perhaps even November,” Hall said. “The more voters, the better. And doing this during a general election would bring a wide variety of voters. As weak as our outlook is, Washington County’s is worse. We need ‘buy-in’ from all governing bodies.”
For now, officials will be doing a bit more homework and reconvening in the near future.
“We would probably have to cut academic coaches, after-school programs, electives, extra-curricular athletics and other things,” Superintendent of Schools Richard Bales said about the end result of not finding additional revenue.
The increase, which would bring the local tax to 9.75 percent, would bring in to Johnson City a yearly estimate of $3 million. Washington County, whose school board is expected to vote on moving a sales tax forward this month, would pull in about $4.2 million in estimated revenues should they be the one to place the matter on the ballot.
Of course these two scenarios apply only to a successful vote.
“This is a hard problem to solve,” said City Manager Pete Peterson.