Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Schools sell MVA license plates bearing mascots’ likenesses

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Naomi Brookner⁄The Gazette
Recent Seneca Valley High School graduate Patrick Donlon and PTSA members Joyce Wootten (left) and Brenda Martin worked together to create a license plate for the high school. Art teacher Matthew D. Moran also helped.
New state-issued license plates bearing the image of Seneca Valley High School’s Screaming Eagle and Magruder High School’s Colonel will soon begin appearing on cars in Montgomery County.

The plates recently approved for sale by the Motor Vehicle Administration sprang from the imagination of the schools’ PTSA members who were looking for a way to promote school spirit.

In Germantown, the Seneca Valley plates — the product of the combined efforts of several parents, a teacher, a student in the art department and the MVA — went on sale on the school’s Web site June 23. Brenda Martin, the school’s designated representative for the project, said last week she is encouraged by the response so far.  As of June 27, Martin said she had received orders for 10 of the 25 plates in the initial allotment.

The MVA requires that the first 25 plates sold by non-profit organizations be delivered in one mailing to a designated representative. After that, buyers can receive the plates directly after applying to the MVA.

Martin, the vice president of educational issues with Seneca Valley’s PTSA, came up with the idea of encouraging people to display their ties to the high school through a license plate.

‘‘I sort of ‘created’ them for lack of a better word,” she said. ‘‘I had help, but it was my baby.”

The help came from Matthew D. Moran, an art teacher, and Patrick Donlon, a senior who was Moran’s teacher’s assistant during the school year. Donlon said he was recruited for the project after Martin appeared in the art room one day and spoke to Moran about it.

‘‘Brenda Martin had some ideas that she wanted already. Some things we needed to take out and some things we needed to add,” Donlon said of the early design.

 Donlon, who has since graduated, said he worked with Moran for three months using Photoshop software to create the Screaming Eagle image that makes the plate stand out. Others elements of the design include the word ‘‘win”, with the letters arranged vertically and ‘‘Seneca Valley High School” across the bottom. The rest of the plate contains standard lettering and numerals found on  Maryland license plates.

The design had to be vetted by a lawyer from the Attorney General’s Office who works at MVA to weed out unsuitable designs, said Caryn Coyle, a spokeswoman with the MVA.

‘‘As long as it’s not offensive, they can design it any way they want,” Coyle said.

Coyle said Seneca Valley is one of only 35 high schools in the state to have its own organizational plates. The MVA lists Magruder in Rockville, Walt Whitman in Bethesda and Georgetown Preparatory in North Bethesda as the other schools in Montgomery County with license plate programs, although school officials at Whitman and Georgetown said their programs have sold a only a few plates in recent years.

At Magruder, the license plate effort has been largely organized by Louis Wilen of Olney, a member of the PTSA board. Wilen said he has informal commitments from 25 people for the first 25 plates. He said has begun taking orders for the first plates that he expects to be issued around the start of school.

‘‘It really got started as an idea to kind of show school pride and as a small fund raiser,” Wilen said.

Martin said no money is being raised at Seneca Valley through sale of the plates. There is a one-time $25 fee required by the state.

Wilen said Magruder’s plates cost $40 each. The extra money will be used to fund PTSA initiatives that support the school, he said.