Technology, transportation purchase debated
After discussions concerning purchasing technology and new vehicles for the district, the Mobridge-Pollock School Board Monday, Sept. 9, approved the budget for the 2013-2014 school year.
As part of the plan for the year, the administration is planning to purchase 10 more iPads for elementary teachers, 50 iPads for student use in the elementary and high schools and 12 laptops to replace desktop computers for some teachers.
Superintendent Tim Frederick explained to the board that new technology would be widely used in each classroom and in pilot programs for Pam Well’s physical science, chemistry and geometry classes.
Board member Jane Looyenga told the board that in her discussion with students returning from their first year in college, they struggled with the use of technology in college.
“Our kids don’t have enough opportunities in curriculum that is web based,” she said.
Board member Todd Wagner questioned the necessity of the purchase of the technology equipment, asking if the purchases would be replacing the updating of books.
Frederick explained that typically, $70,000 to $100,000 is spent on curriculum. As of Monday night, there was $90,000 in the curriculum budget. He also pointed out there was $40,000 in the technology budget, some of which could be used in the purchase.
Member Eric Stroeder pointed out that books are also expensive and some are outdated before the next school year. It was also pointed out that teacher Erin Dale had secured a $25,000 grant for classroom technology. Twenty-two iPads and some charging stations were purchased with the grant funding.
“We have to think about the future,” he said. “A lot of schools in the state are moving in this direction.”
Wagner pointed out that it was not just the purchase expense of the technology, but the upkeep.
“Down the road, can we afford the maintenance of this?” he asked.
Board President Bingo Kindt pointed out that the capital outlay fund of the district was in good shape and other funding could be used in the purchase of the technology.
“The bottom line is that this will help our students succeed,” he said. “Let’s just do this.”
Frederick added that the discussion to purchase the technology would not be happening if it were not a part of a long-range plan.
“Technology is curriculum, curriculum is technology,” he said in a follow-up discussion on Tuesday. “Technology is an important tool in helping our students be successful in college and prepare them for the 21st century.”
The board approved the purchase of technology.
Frederick told the board in 2013-2014, that the district should consider purchasing two vehicles, one cargo van for transporting sports teams, fine arts teams and cheerleaders, and a smaller passenger vehicle for driver’s education and other district needs.
“The van would be a 13-to 15-passenger vehicle and the car a five-to six-passenger vehicle.
“We don’t want a used car parking lot out here, so we will weed out those vehicles that are of lower value,” he told the board. “Or at some point we need to look at surplusing those vehicle before they lose all of their value.”
Wagner asked if it were necessary to purchase two new
vehicle when it may become necessary to purchase a new student bus if the problems with the charter bus could not be fixed. That bus has had an ongoing problem with the air conditioning and has no way to ventilate it if the air conditioning goes out during a trip. The windows do not open.
“Are we better off saving this money for a new bus?” Wagner asked the board.
Frederick reminded the board that they had set aside funding each year for the purchase of a bus when the time came. He said a new activities bus would cost about $113,000, with all the “bells and whistles” about $136,000.
“We will need to consider buying a new bus in 2015,” he said. “Since we have about half of the cost in the fund already, we will be able to purchase a bus then.”
As part of the review of the policy manual, Looyenga, who has been reviewing, researching and making recommendations for updates, recommended that part of the new policy manual be board self-evaluations.
She said that many of the recommendations, including the evaluation, come from the Association School Boards of South Dakota organization.
“Many of their policies fit the needs of our district, including the self-evaluation,” she said. “It allows the board to focus on ourselves, our school and our community.”
The evaluation form is short and contains multiple choice answers to questions on the qualities of board members such as decision making, relationships with the superintendent and the community, managing finances and strengths.
There are essays on strengths of the board, improvements that could be made and goals of the board.
“I’m not big into this unless we are committed to do it,” said Frederick. “For us to move forward with this, we need to use it to help us measure our growth.”
Kindt told the board he felt that he had not been as connected to the community that he should be.
“We could use this to help us all maintain our contact with the community with the everyday operations of the district, instead of just when we build,” he said.
The board adopted the evaluation as part of the policy manual.
– Katie Zerr –