Tonasket School Board addresses technology needs of state testing

TONASKET – The April 13 Tonasket School Board meeting consisted of technology training presented by TSD Technology Supervisor Jordan Weddle to board members on how to access their new email, with the school switching over from the First Class email system to Gmail May 15. Steve McCullough, who will be the new school superintendent starting in July, was also in attendance.

The Consent Agenda portion of the meeting consisted of items related to Personnel, Certified Substitutes, Field Trip Requests and Surplus. All items on the consent agenda were approved without discussion, other than a referral to the personnel issue relating to two resignations; one which would be effective immediately. Board packets are distributed to board members ahead of time on their I-Pads. Therefore, no discussion of consent agenda items is necessary in the public setting of the board meetings. Board packets are not available to the public at the meetings, just the agenda listing the order of topics to be discussed.

Middle School 7th grade History/Language Arts teacher Brett Franklin will be resigning, and Middle School Math Teacher Michelle Silverthorn will be taking a one-year leave of absence.

Field trips approved include the high school students going to the State Capital in Olympia April 20-21, the middle school taking students to the Math Olympiad May 1-2, the Mecha Club going to Seattle May 1-3, Gear-Up students going to Stehekin May 5-7, and Alternative Students going to Silverwood Theme Park June 8-9.

Two school buses have been surplussed.

Unfinished Business included a discussion of the facilities bond. Board member Catherine Stangland said she meet with three bond volunteers who suggested waiting until February to run the bond again.

“The volunteers are all in agreement trying to run two issues in the same year at different times is not a good idea,” said Stangland. “They had a lot of contact with the voters, and we didn’t lose by a lot. If we run them together, we need to do a better job of differentiating them, and make everything really clear.”

Board member Lloyd Caton said the feedback he received from people was that they didn’t completely understand the numbers and the way they totaled up.

“We are in the middle of it, so of course we understand it,” said Caton. “We bear the brunt of some of that; the information not being presented clearly. It is clear to us, because we are knee deep in it.”

Board member Jerry Asmussen said the board needed to keep working on it, as four more students enrolled in the elementary school that same day.

“The numbers aren’t getting smaller and the space isn’t getting bigger,” said Stangland.

Levy monies were again discussed during the technology update. According to Weddle, increased demands by the state for student testing puts the school district in need of spending $83,000 on technology.

“We need more technology available during testing. The burden with this new testing is greater,” said Weddle, adding that computers still needed to be available for senior projects at the end of the year when the majority of testing is done.

The current levy budgets for $30,000 to be spent annually to “refresh computer labs.” This leaves the district cost for technology updates at $53,000. Board member Caton repeatedly asked where the $53,000 would come from, expressing concern that it not come out of the reserve fund.

“Our reserve fund is in trouble now, it is down to almost nothing,” Caton said.

“We have to do what’s best for kids,” said Stangland.

“It’s not best for kids if they can’t come to school because we couldn’t pay the bills and had to shut the doors,” Caton responded. “At some point we are going to need that reserve fund for something more important, and it’s not going to be there. We are already not going to finish out the year with as much in the reserve as we had planned. What portion of the $53,000 is coming out of the general fund?”

Weddle said that would be addressed at the upcoming budget session.

According to Weddle, a large amount of computer equipment purchased in 2007 needs to be surplussed, including 32 staff Macs at $40,864 and 117 student Macs at $149,409 for a total of $190,273. Weddle said switching to Chromebooks would save money, with 32 staff Chromebooks costing $12,480 and 117 student Chromebooks would cost $38,610 for a total of $51,090.

“We are getting close to having just two kids per Chromebook,” Weddle said.

The school district volunteered to take part in a technology audit through the Educational Service District, and Weddle said ESD made the following recommendations: establish a technology refresh cycle, standardize on equipment, have an off-site backup plan, migrate TSD to google’s email system, upgrade wireless and firewall, reduce the number of servers down to three or four and streamline technology purchasing ad approval.

Weddle said the technology audit was about ten pages, and the information would be used when creating the technology plan to be presented April 27.

Stangland pointed out that the school’s new phone system that has been being used for less than a year will be phased out. She also said there were still complaints being expressed about the school’s website, and it was suggested a job description be written to hire someone to maintain the website.

The next school board meeting will be Monday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m.