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School board considers 1:1 laptop program

June 7, 2012
Ross Bercik - Managing Editor , Traer Star-Clipper

The North Tama County Community School Board met in regular session last month, discussing, among other things, the possibility of joining the bevy of schools that have gone digital in the 1-to-1 laptop program.

The meeting followed an hourlong tour of the building in which administrators were able to show members of the board the areas of the school that need improvement, including several sections of windows and a section of one of the boilers.

Following the approval of the agenda, the board listened to a Spotlight on Education presentation regarding biomes in the junior high science classes. The 1:1 presentation followed, with North Tama teachers giving input on the program. According to a teacher who spoke at the meeting, every other member of the faculty he has talked to has been in favor of the program.

The 1:1 program is a new trend among schools that has gained popularity nationally as technology has become less expensive and more accessible. The program would allow for every student at North Tama to receive a laptop, which they would keep with them for their entire school career in the district. Teachers would have the ability to upload homework assignments, give lesson plans, assign reading and many other tasks, all electronically. The benefits of the program include the fact that it would minimize printing, helping both the school's cost in that regard and the environmental impact.

The 1:1 program is not without its drawbacks, however. The devices would come at a cost of $203,816 (including optional insurance) to the school district. Each device costs $519 and includes an internet filter, case, curriculum manager and three-year maintenance package. There would be a total of 290 units at the quoted price.

The board made no decision on the matter, and the presentation was simply to introduce the possibility and inform the members of the anticipated cost should they decide to pursue it further. The board will surely be debating the risk-reward of such an investment over the coming months.

Also on the financial front, the board heard a presentation from Matt Gillaspie on different types of borrowing allowed by the state of Iowa in relation to loans for the school district. The presentation was lengthy and touched on topics including SILO funds and the relationship of borrowing to the expected enrollment increase or decrease for each particular district. North Tama is estimated to lose an average of one student annually over the next five years, which is about average for a district of its size.

The board took an intermission before returning to business, but not before taking the time to pose for a picture for the Star-Clipper to recognize Iowa School Board Appreciation Week.

Following the picture, the members addressed remaining regular business, which included the recommendation that the board approve $23,799 for replacement of a burner in one of the school's boilers. The reccomendation was made due to the fact that the boiler is no longer manufactured, and acquiring parts for it in the future would be too difficult and far more costly.

Josh Youel gave the elementary report and stated that the school has seen a marked improvement with the 4W program. He also mentioned the need for an attendance policy similar to the high school, which would encourage parents to make sure their children attend as much school as possible and avoid unnecessary absences that can put them at a disadvantage when it comes to keeping pace with their classmates.

Irv Laube gave the secondary report, which was brief and included a mention of the junior high holding their annual fun day on the last day of school, which was May 29 this year.

The approval of administrative and non-contract salaries was put on hold until next month's meeting.

There were two major coaching changes made at the meeting, with Josh Meyer, junior high girls basketball coach, resigning. The decision was based simply on the fact that Meyer has young children of his own and would like more time to focus on family.

In addition, the open head football coach position, which was open for just a few short weeks, was filled with the board approving the hiring of Dan Oltman. Oltman, who previously worked as assistant coach at Denver Community Schools, will also be teaching social studies at the high school beginning this fall.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the North Tama County Community School Board is Monday, June 18, 2012, at 7 p.m.



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