After a grueling discussion, concerns from the community and hesitations from a board member, the Huntington County Community School Corporation Board voted June 26 to approve the purchase of 3,051 iPad 3's for every HCCSC middle school and high school student for the 2012-13 school year.
Ryan Wall, associate director of informational technology at the Huntington County Courthouse, told the board he's concerned about the timing of the project.
"I just worry if there's enough time to do it properly," he told board members. "Having done projects in a hurry, sometimes the volume isn't there for all the staff needed, and maybe a project that has a good intention can turn bad."
Wall also pointed out the recent budget shortfall due to tax errors and wondered about the health of Capital Projects Fund, especially in the face of the "curve ball" thrown to administration by the school board's demand for lower textbook rental rates. He requested that the board take a year off to better prepare.
"I'm a technology guy. I will always say that getting technology to kids is a great thing, I just feel that you're going at it a little too fast," Wall said.
The purchase was approved on a 5-2 vote, with members Scott Hoffman and Ben Landrum voting against.
Member Troy Smart voiced concerns about the potential financial demands of the project.
"As we see contingencies come up - $100,000 here, $50,000 there - before long, we've run out of money and if we don't have everything in place, we can't roll (the project) out properly," Smart said.
The total cost to the Capital Projects Fund for the student's devices in Phase 1 of the project, after applying funds collected from textbook rental, will be $242,415. The on-going cost of Phase 1 for future years in the current lease would be $120,375.
The total cost of the project overall, for the first year, will be $451,977.02 from the Capital Projects Fund and $494,206.80 from other funds.
Board members also expressed uncertainty due to the potential for problems, the amount of teacher training available, lack of technology support and how much time device integration will take from teachers.
Member Tom King gave his support to the project, calling on the corporation to be a leader in education.
"If we want to move forward, we have to move forward," King said. "If we stop and wait to see how it works out for everyone else, we'll know which way to go, but we won't be leaders. We'll be behind everybody."
Hand-in-hand with the iPad purchase approval, the board also approved the new textbook rental rates. Rates have been adapted to address the migration from traditional textbooks to electronic devices.
New textbook rental rates at all grade levels will include a $100 charge for the iPad and additional charges for consumable materials and fees. In high school, there may also be further charges for any necessary advanced placement and dual credit textbooks, depending on classes taken by individual students.
The adjusted textbook rental rate varies from the past by an approximate maximum of $40, excluding the schedule-dependent high school rates.
Professional development and technology training for HCCSC staff continues. Grable reported that 182 teachers attended the iPad and Macbook 101 sessions, 107 attended iPad and Macbook 201 sessions, 35 attended Big Mac Basics, and 154 attended the week-long digital curriculum academy. Teachers can follow tips and discussion on Twitter at #HCCSC2012.
Also at the school board meeting:
• HCCSC welcomed two familiar faces into two new positions. Chad Daugherty, former principal of Crestview Middle School, was approved as the new principal of Huntington North High School. Also, Russ Degitz, former dean of students at North, was approved as the new principal of Lancaster Elementary School.
Daugherty will assume his new role on July 1, and Degitz on Aug. 1.
• Superintendent Tracey Shafer presented evaluation models for teachers to the board in accordance with Indiana legislation. HCCSC will adopt the state-approved RISE rubric to use in addition to school grades, ISTEP scores and personal student learning objectives. Every teacher will be evaluated annually using objective data obtained by multiple measures.
"I think it's a good and fair rubric," Shafer said. Principals and superintendents will also be evaluated.
• The board approved the purchase of two 90-passenger transit buses. The new busses will have traffic stop-arms and three installed cameras. Funds appropriated for the purchase are $219,415.
• Work will begin on repairs to the east parking lot at HNHS after the board awarded the construction bid to Wayne Asphalt for $101,084, with an understood $10,000 patching allowance. The work should be completed by Aug. 6.
Superintendent of Business Jon Bennett said that the business department expected bids closer to $150,000.
"We are very fortunate that the market is very competitive right now," he told the board.
• The board also approved the upgrade and movement of HCCSC voice over internet protocol (VOIP) equipment from Horace Mann Education Center to Huntington North, and the purchase of phones for the high school and Roanoke Elementary school, and phone licenses for the entire school district. The total cost will be $177,264.
The change to an integrated district phone system will save the corporation an estimated $36,000 annually as individual school phone systems are disconnected. Safety landlines will be maintained.
The decision follows a complete phone failure at the high school during spring break, and as Roanoke has been without voicemail capabilities for the majority of the school year.
• The board approved the digital curriculum policy to accompany the new wave of student and staff devices. The policy specifies what is school-appropriate usage, student expectations, damage, repair and replacement of devices.
• Board member terms will move forward six months due to the state change of elections and filing dates. Petitions of nomination for the Nov. 6, 2012, election may be filed starting July 25. Filing will end Aug. 24 at noon.
• The next board meeting was rescheduled for Wednesday, July 18, at 7 p.m. at the Horace Mann Education Center. There will be only one board meeting in July.