Corporate Sponsor of School Fundraiser Linked to Pedophile

     In a departure from its usual meeting procedure, the District 196 school board May 15 ceded control of its regular meeting, turning over the podium to a private fundraising group affiliated with a corporation whose spokesperson is in federal prison for child pornography and child sexual assault charges.
          Time at the board’s podium is typically so tightly controlled that parents and taxpayers are allowed no more than two minutes to address the board under its rules. Even the winner of the state’s high school speech championship, present at the meeting to be recognized by the board, was not allotted time to speak at the board meeting.
          However, under a school board rule permitting “special communication requests,” the board Monday turned over the podium for more than six minutes—more than three times the amount allowed to parents, taxpayers, and others who wish to speak—to allow a representative from a private fundraising organization to promote a fundraiser conducted in the district’s elementary schools. Under the rules, special communications are limited to five minutes per speaker.
          Amy Countryman, of the American Heart Association, took the podium to promote the organization’s fundraiser conducted in the district’s elementary schools. The fundraiser uses school staff, space, and resource time to benefit the association’s annual goals, according to statements made during the speech. Promotional materials for the fundraiser, which are hung in schools and sent home with students, contain ads for the Subway restaurant chain.
          Subway’s spokesperson, Jared Fogle, is currently serving a federal prison term on federal charges related to child pornography and having sex with minors. His ex-wife sued Subway last fall, alleging the company knew about its spokesman’s predatory behavior for years, but failed to warn her or report him to the authorities.
          District 196 is not the only local youth organization known to promote Subway. The Eagan Athletic Association this year added Subway ads to its youth basketball jerseys. When a parent requested a jersey without the ad, the organization refused to provide one.
          In her speech, Countryman described incentives and rewards given to district teachers for raising funds for the organization.
          The fundraiser’s speech consumed approximately 10 percent of the board’s hour-long board meeting. The board had no discussion of the progress of several multi-million-dollar construction projects underway in the district. The board also had no discussion about recent felony charges against an Eastview High School volunteer accused of misappropriating several thousand dollars intended for a student post-graduation party and funneling them through her adult amusement business.