Thousands of drivers get a glimpse of a well-lit electronic sign on Route 151 in Mashpee that relays community and school messages on a daily basis.
Although it had a rocky 10-month installation process, the sign has had a positive public response since it was installed in January.
On the sign, “Mashpee Public Schools” stands out in bright white letters on a blue background with an electronic message board directly under it. The gray brick base is about four feet high with a blue border, tying in with the school’s colors. The structure sits promptly near the side of the road on top of a bed of shells.
The goal was to create a clean look, Superintendent Patricia DeBoer said.
Conversations about creating a new sign began in the fall of 2017 when it was found that he old one was rusted in spots and was difficult to update. The letters had to be changed manually, Ms. DeBoer said.
“For me, it’s important because we want to appear to be innovative, an up-to-date district, and that other sign didn’t represent us,” Ms. DeBoer said.
With the new installation, Ms. DeBoer can change the board’s messages using an app on her phone. It lets her have multiple messages that rotate onto the screen—another reason why they wanted a more updated, electronic message board. The app also lets her program messages to appear at a specific time.
Right now, the message board has four different messages that cycle through every eight seconds. The screen with the date, time and temperature stay up for five seconds. Ms. DeBoer typically rotates the messages every week.
Ms. DeBoer and Gail Hannan, the administrative assistant to the superintendent, both have access to the sign’s app, but Ms. DeBoer might give Consuelo Carroll, the outreach coordinator, access as well.
While the board is used to inform the public about important school dates and events, such as school closures, other town entities can use the sign as well. It has relayed messages about town elections, community picnics and town meetings.
“For me, it’s a community board,” Ms. DeBoer said. “Police, fire, town hall—any town-related function, we can put up messages.”
“It helps us to be a better-connected community,” she said. “It was another avenue of communication for us.”
The project to get the sign installed, however, was much more eventful than anticipated.
“It felt like not a lot of people were in favor,” said Ms. DeBoer, adding that perhaps the ones who didn’t like the sign spoke louder than those who were in favor.
Concerns about the potential brightness of the display as well as whether the sign would meet town bylaws rose around the town. Because the zoning bylaws grant exceptions to governmental institutions, the school was exempt from certain town regulations. The school did follow the town’s bylaws regarding the brightness of the sign, keeping it at 100 lumens per square foot.
Evan Lehrer, the town planner, helped the school with the design of the sign. When Ms. DeBoer brought a raw design to a Mashpee Design Review Committee meeting during the spring of 2018, Mr. Lehrer said, he noticed that what was put forward was a basic design with no real features and was not overtly attractive.
“It stirred up a little bit of a political controversy,” he said. “It was not really well-received.”
Mr. Lehrer, who previously worked as an economic development and long-term planner for the Town of Brookline, had experience managing signs and provided Ms. DeBoer with some feedback.
He created his own design of the sign in his sketchbook and showed Ms. DeBoer, who liked it and brought the design back to the school committee.
Since it has been installed, Mr. Lehrer thinks the sign has been really well-received.
“It follows really basic design elements, it’s visible from the street, it’s readable and clear, the material palette is consistent with the area,” Mr. Lehrer said. “It’s hard to dislike.”
The school worked with Scoreboard Enterprises, Inc. from Easton, which installed the sign, and the message display board is from Daktronics, a technology company in South Dakota.
The total cost of the sign was $47,550, according to an invoice from Scoreboard Enterprises that was obtained by the Mashpee Enterprise in a public records request, with the electronic screen accounting for $23,505 of the total cost.
Funds from the school budget were used to pay for the sign, Ms. DeBoer said.
Michael Looney, director of career and technology education for Mashpee schools, said he met with vendors and discussed different options for the sign with Ms. DeBoer and the town.
“I believe that the new sign gives us the opportunity to reach more people in the community with all the wonderful things in the town and more specifically in the school department,” he said.
After months of back-and-forth emails with Scoreboard and numerous delays, the sign was installed in late January. Since then, Ms. DeBoer said she’s received lots of positive comments from the public about it.
The school still has the old sign, which was a gift from the Class of 2005, and Ms. DeBoer hopes to get it refurbished and use it in the back of the high school where students come in.
Ms. DeBoer hopes the Route 151 sign reflects the innovations that the school has to offer.
“We want to make sure we’re giving the best product to our students and our families,” she said.