Archive for Wednesday, March 13, 2013

School board approves iPads for all district teachers

March 13, 2013

The USD 204 Board of Education was faced with a tough decision Monday: Who deserves to have iPads more, students or teachers?

The board considered a request for more iPads to expand an eighth-grade pilot program that began this school year from two algebra classes to all eighth-grade students at Clark Middle School, as well as a request from the district’s technology committee to get iPads for all teachers in the district. But when district staff advised that the district could only safely fund one request, board members voted in favor of the teachers’ proposal.

Eric Hansen, business and human resources director for the district, advised that the board approve only one of the requests at its Monday meeting and consider other needs from and the overall status of its capital outlay fund before approving the second request.

“I know we can swing one, but I’m a little bit concerned with swinging both of them right now,” he said.

The pilot program was approved last spring for 60 iPads for eighth-graders in algebra, with the intention that the plan eventually be expanded to all eighth-graders.

The board began its meeting with an overwhelming show of the iPads’ effectiveness, as several students in the algebra class pilot program went one-on-one with them, showing how they used the tablet’s applications to take notes, complete assignments and interact with their teachers in all of their classes.

Eighth-grade teachers from each subject also spoke about how all students could benefit from the use of an iPad in their subject, adding that use of the technology could save them from printing off about 69,000 copies of paper assignments in a year.

The district’s technology committee also came back to the board after making a request that all teachers receive iPads last month. The committee revised its request, asking for iPad2s rather than iPad4s, reducing the cost from about $120,000 to about $97,000.

Joseph Longbottom, representing the committee, said while obtaining such technology for all students is the ultimate goal, the first step in that process was to make sure teachers felt comfortable with the technology.

“The key to fostering proficient students is having proficient teachers along the way,” he said.

Some staff members, put on the spot by board members to recommend one or the other, reluctantly agreed with Longbottom.

“These kids are digital natives,” Steve Cook, middle school principal, said. “You saw; they smoke on these machines. They go insane, they are so good, so fast … teachers need to have those in their hands to keep up with them.”

The board agreed with this idea, unanimously approving the technology committee’s proposal and tabling the eighth-grade program expansion until a later meeting.

In other business, the board:

• Recognized wrestling state champions Aaron Puckett and Jonathan Blackwell.

• Approved the minutes from the Feb. 19 meeting.

• Approved warrants totaling $215,286.

• Approved contract with United Sport Systems for $72,410 for resurfacing track.

• Approved an additional maintenance department employee.

• Discussed summer facilities projects and approved commissioning architects to redesign the high school office and the awning at District P.E. Center.

• Heard a presentation from Leading Educators, a nonprofit organization that supports professional development of educators in districts with a high percentage of at-risk students, asking for continuation of the district’s participation in the program, which costs $2,700 per participant. With six teachers ready to participate, it would cost $13,635 in 2013-14.

• Gave preliminary approval to a contract for a School Resources Officer.

• Conducted a 15-minute executive session. After the session, the board rescinded a termination motion, approved separation agreement and accepted the resignation of a high school math teacher.

• Heard a recommendation from current Superintendent Robert VanMaren that the board start thinking about a planning bond issue within 18 months given the housing construction planned within the district. He said the bond issue likely should include technology infrastructure as well as building expansion. He stated the district still owns 11.5 acres of land near Delaware Ridge Elementary that was originally designated for a second middle school but might instead be used for a ninth-grade/freshman academy.


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