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COCA-COLA CAPTURES ANOTHER DISTRICT

Coca-Cola on Tuesday offered the Cheektowaga-Sloan School Board $330,000-plus for exclusive pouring rights in district schools. The offer includes everything from sports equipment to "hawking trays."

Depending on the payment schedule, the 10-year agreement would bring the district somewhere between $330,000 and $375,000 in exclusivity fees, sales commissions, sports equipment, scholarships, software and "free product."

And the students can even use Coca-Cola's trademark "hawking trays" to sell discounted soft drinks for fund-raising.

Carol Klein, who is Youth Market Manager for Coca-Cola in Buffalo, said parents have not been bothered by the idea of children essentially acting as salesmen for the company.

"They've actually been quite receptive to the idea," said Klein. "They're doing so much fund-raising anyway, and they find our program makes more money for them with less effort."

Klein said the company has offered the fund-raising option as a bonus in its exclusive pouring rights deals with school districts for about two years.

The program includes free use of Coca-Cola's trademark trailer for "truckload sales," as well as banners, posters and any other requested merchandising materials to help sell the company's line of beverages.

Board President Edward Bednarczyk said school and outside groups would still be allowed to conduct alternative fund-raisers, such as the ever-popular band pierogi sale.

"I don't suspect Coca-Cola would try to control the pierogi market," said Bednarczyk.

But if any school or outside organization using district facilities wanted to sell or consume any soft drinks at events, those soft drinks would have to be Coke products.

Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola are in a race to tie up exclusive pouring rights in area schools -- deals that are netting some districts a million dollars or more.

If the board accepts the 10-year pact, another five or six vending machines would be added to the 10 currently in school buildings. Bottled water, Power-ade and juice drinks would be available all day, with carbonated beverages "locked out" during lunch periods.

Superintendent James P. Mazgajew-ski said the question now is probably not whether the board will accept the Coca-cola deal, but how the district will choose to be paid.

"You'd rather not have to do it if you didn't have to, but in the end it benefits the children," said Mazgajewski.

The board also received early budget estimates for the 2001-02 school year, with spending increases of roughly 9.7 percent over the current year. Mazgajewski stressed that those numbers will fall dramatically as the board starts paring down the budget in a series of public work sessions.

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