School board shuts down phase two of digital curriculum by 5-2 count

Children in elementary school during the 2013-14 school year will not receive individual iPads during the school year.

The Huntington County Community School Board of Trustees voted 5-2 on Wednesday, May 30, to shut down phase two of the digital curriculum, which would have given iPads to elementary school students.

Holly Thompson, District 4, and Tom King, District 5, were the two "yes" votes, with the rest of the school board voting against the recommendation presented by Assistant Superintendent Chuck Grable.

Grable proposed a one-year lease of iPads to distribute to students in third, fourth and fifth grades across the corporation, at a cost of $334,533.20.

The proposal would have given students in third, fourth and fifth grades individual iPads in the 2013-14 school year.

In addition, students in kindergarten, first and second grade would have shared a cart of iPads, with each building allowed 30 iPads per K-2 group.

Had it passed, the recommendation by Grable would have added a third phase to the digital curriculum rollout - meaning more iPads would be purchased in 2014-15.

Originally, the iPad distribution was to be implemented in two phases. During the 2012-13 school year, middle and high school students received individual instruction on iPads, as initially set out in phase one.

The second phase, as proposed on May 30, is now indefinitely on hold.

Superintendent Tracey Shafer attempted to win the board's support by explaining the rapidly changing world of technology and giving an account of his recent visit to North Manchester University's pharmacy program, which he says relies heavily on the use of laptops.

King said that delaying the distribution of iPads would "put our young people further and further behind."
However, School Board President Kevin Patrick declared he could not support the distribution of any more iPads in the corporation, saying so far the devices have been "more distraction than improvement in our classrooms."

Grable also presented information about Indiana's Common Core Standards (INCC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

Currently, all grades are required to teach children Common Core Standards, and second grade through eighth grades are still required to teach Indiana State Academic Standards, says Grable.

The latest decision from Indiana's Department of Education put the implementation of the Common Core Standards, which focus primarily on math and language arts, on hold.

Grable explained that both the Common Core Standards and the PARCC are "more about assessments" than changing the structure of learning.

He also pointed out that a school district cannot opt out of teaching these standards once the department of education finds a direction for full implementation.

Elementary reading textbooks were adopted, with "Journeys" by Houghton Mifflin selected.

The move will cost $279,336.65, and the texts will be used for six years.

Grable says the books meet the Common Core and Indiana State Academic Standards and were accepted by a committee of elementary teachers with 90 percent approval.

The reading materials were selected from a list of federally approved texts, provided by the Department of Education.

In other business:

• Michael Gasaway, athletic director at Huntington North High School, presented the possibility of HNHS switching from the North Central Conference to a new conference in the 2015-16 school year.

• The 2013-14 student handbook was presented for a first reading. Changes will be voted on at the next school board meeting, on Monday, June 10.

• Two new employees were hired at Huntington North High School. Dan Baker was named director of choir and Varsity Singer and auditorium manager, and Justin Lunsford was approved as a chemistry and physics teacher.

• A timeline and plan of action for the sale of the Instructional Service Center building was approved.

• Jon Bennett, assistant superintendent for business and classified staff, reported the bond sale, facilitated by Umbaugh & Associates, saved the corporation $423,000. These funds will reduce taxes across the district over the next four years, as set forth by the board's decision on April 10.

• The board approved purchase of new iPad cases, from PROTEKTOR, as well as 77 handheld and nine portable radios, which will allow the district to switch to completely digital radio communication.

• The 2013-14 school board meeting calendar was approved. Meetings will continue to take place every second and fourth Mondays of each month at 7 p.m. at the Horace Mann Educational Center.

• Shafer reported that in April and May, 18 individuals earned General Education Diplomas.