HCCSC goes with Shafer plan to fix iPad problem

Superintendent Tracey Shafer presented a technology update on Monday evening, Oct. 22, during the biweekly meeting of the school board.

Shafer addressed concerns brought forth two weeks prior, by Billie Keith, a parent of three Huntington County Community School students.

Keith addressed the board on Oct. 7 and expressed concern over her middle school-aged children having the ability to gain access to pornographic material using the iPad in her home.

"There are no perfect solutions," Shafer explained.
He said the key is to "find solutions that allow authority, yet allow access to instructional information."

After conducting two focus groups in the past 14 days, one with middle school teachers and the other with parents of students with iPads, Shafer said three areas of concern have been addressed: appropriate applications, the Internet access filter and bandwidth restriction.

Shafer explained that beginning immediately all iPads at Riverview Middle School will be collected and everything that has been downloaded on the devices will be removed.
He also said after the iPads are returned to students, the iPads will have restrictions on applications that can be downloaded - meaning when a student tries to download an application it must be approved by the school.

Also, the Internet browser will be changed. Currently, the iPads operate with the default Internet browser for all Apple computers - Safari. When the iPads are returned, they will no longer use Safari, which will be replaced with Mobicip - a mobile web filter with parental controls.

The Mobicip browser is described on the product's website as offering, "safe, secure and educational Internet for your child's iPhone."

This process will also be completed on all iPads at Crestview Middle School. Shafer says the process of collecting the iPads at Crestview will begin after Nov. 1.

But, high school students will not see such a rigorous change. Huntington North students will still be allowed to use Safari, and will be able to access social media websites like Twitter, said Tom Ashley, director of technology for the corporation.

However, some board members were less than satisfied with these solutions.

"Why don't we go more stringent and install Mobicip on all the iPads... it is a more prudent way to go," asked Troy Smart, vice president.

Smart pointed out that if parents of high school students later wish for their child to use Safari, then the restrictions could be lessened on a case-by-case basis.

Shafer said "We made the decision based on two things: one, the feedback we got from teachers and parents; secondly, working from the notion that high school kids... we expect them to be a little more responsible with the content."

And, he adds, "The Mobicip app is not free. I'm not sure that we want to pay for these for every student just to have them removed, either."

Ashley explained that there is an additional cost per iPad to install the Mobicip browser. He approximated the cost at a onetime fee of $3 to download the browser, and a $5 annual cost, per device, to purchase management of the browser, which allows the corporation to download
and manage activity on each device.

School Board President Kevin Patrick said, "I'm with Mr. Smart... We should put the pressure with the parents to make the decision... why can't we just get them all the same (the iPads), lock them down, and then if people want their kids to have more freedom they can come to us. I don't know why we wouldn't do that."

"We got these things to give our kids a better education, and at this time they are a distraction. If we can't get this under control, maybe we should lock them down," Patrick continued.

"I think this is an administration decision."

The discussion concluded with the plan to tighten iPad restrictions continuing as Shafer presented it to the board, and another technology update will be given at the next school board meeting on Nov. 12.

Several items on the agenda were defeated by the board, including the hiring of a new classified employee for the receptionist position at Horace Mann Educational Center.

The board defeated the motion to approve the hiring of the new receptionist by a 5-2 vote. Board members Tom King, District 5, and Jennifer Goff, District 4, voted yes, while the rest of the board voted against the motion.

Patrick said the ruffling point is the hourly pay rate offered to the new employee.

Jon Bennett, assistant superintendent for business and classified staff, said the pay rate offered was based on the applicants' previous work experience and the job duties required for the position.

The board members that voted to defeat the motion cited issues with the pay rate being too high in comparison to that of other receptionists working in the corporation, and the possibility for animosity to build within the corporation.

Shafer asked for board recommendations on the next step to take to fill the position, which will be vacant at the end of October. Those who voted no unanimously agreed that the vote was not against the applicant, and asked Shafer to offer the applicant a lower hourly pay rate.

Also defeated during the meeting was a motion to pass the 2013 Tax Neutrality Resolution (Pension Bond).
Bennett explained the resolution would increase the tax levy by $510,000 for taxpayers but would allow more free funds in the Bus Replacement Fund and the Capital Projects Fund. It was Bennett's recommendation that the board should pass the resolution, but it was defeated with a 5-2 vote. Vice President Smart and President Patrick voted yes, while the remaining members voted against the motion.

In other fiscal matters, the 2013 advertised budget was adopted with a 5-2 vote. Board members Scott Hoffman, District 1 and Ben Landrum, District 3, voted against the adoption.

Also, the school board accepted two donations. The first, a donation of $181.48 from Target Stores, will be used by Lincoln Elementary to support family involvement.

The second, a sizable donation in the amount of $24,000 from the Schwab Foundation, will be used by Huntington North to fund the Navigation 101 effort, which helps students become career ready.

Shafer and Patrick thanked Huntington North Principal Chad Daugherty for taking the time to apply for the grant.

Daugherty also presented a new math model for the 2013-14 school year, which collaborates efforts between the middle schools and the high school to help students achieve higher math test scores.

Ultimately, the plan will allow the middle schools to offer geometry to their eighth grade students, allowing them to enter into Algebra 2 as a freshman at Huntington North, if the class is completed with an 80% or higher (B) passing grade.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Huntington County Community Schools School Board will be Monday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. at Horace Mann Educational Center.