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USC School Board approves purchase

By Staff | Jun 25, 2017

United South Central is going chrome. Well, Google Chrome, that is. At their regular School Board meeting held last Tuesday, the USC?School Board decided to purchase, not lease, 420 Chromebook computers for their students and approve the resale of their current iPads and MacBook Air student devices.

The decision to switch to Chromebooks, according to technology director Rita Vondracek, was not only the overall ease of management of the Chromebooks, and benefits to student learning and educational use of the device, but cost as well.

Vondracek’s original recommendation was to lease the Chromebooks through Vantage Financial. Vondracek pointed out the leasing would allow the District to budget for student technology as a yearly and predictable expense and would allow a bit more flexibility when it came to changes in technology.

But, for School Board member Jon Feist, there was not much difference between leasing and purchasing.

“I’m on board with this change from Apple products to Chromebooks, 100 percent, but the big question for me would be do we lease or purchase, and it looks to me like the three-year lease program looks identical to the purchase price,” said Feist.

The difference, Vondracek pointed out, was about a $3,400 difference between leasing and purchasing.

“There is interest that is paid over that three year period,” said Vondracek. “There is a difference, yes. I am told we can make modifications to the lease if something compelling were to pop up in the next three years as far as technology goes, but I don’t really see that happening.”

Vondracek also mentioned she had spoken with other school districts who had benefited from lease programs rather than purchasing the laptops outright.

“And also, if you recall as a part of our capital budget that we approved, we do have the annual cost for a lease included in that budget as an annual cost so we have allocated dollars to fund our one-to-one program moving forward,” added superintendent Keith Fleming.

“I would encourage moving forward with it now. If we do monetize these (Apple computers USC currently owns) now when they’re in decent condition, we can earn some dollars to propel us into the future,” added Vondracek. “For what we need in classrooms, the Chromebooks are sufficient.”

Even student representative Maddie Hart got into the discussion. Her concerns from the student perspective were the use of the Apple’s iMovie program.

“We use that program a lot in our classes for projects,” said Hart. “I think that’s what the students I’ve talked to have said their concerns are is having that program to use for big projects.”

Vondracek assured Hart there were PC?programs that were similar to the iMovie program on Apple computers and could be used in the classroom as well.

She also mentioned the ease, capability, and savings when it came to repairs on the Chromebooks as well, sharing with the board that a screen on a MacBook Air could cost well over hundreds of dollars, where a Chromebook screen would cost a fraction, around $50, to replace.

“I think I’m ready to make a motion, but people may throw a fit,” interjected Feist. “I would make a motion to move forward with the purchase of Chromebooks at a price of $108,780.”

With that motion, board member Brad Heggen clarified, restating Feist’s motion.

“So, what you’re saying is buy versus lease, you’re saying save $3,504 in interest over time and potential recoup of dollars at the end while budgeting in $35,000 a year at the total sum?” asked Heggen, to which Feist agreed.

The board agreed with Feist’s motion to purchase the Chromebooks. Afterwards, the board also approved the resale of iPads and MacBook Airs and approved the purchase of 25 staff computers as well.

The USC?School Board also:

Received an update from superintendent Fleming on the sale of the old school site. Fleming informed the board there was a strange snafu in the sale to the Wells Housing Redevelopment Authority (HRA).

“When we were looking at the old deeds and abstracts, one of the parcels of land was actually recorded with the Independent School District (ISD) number 68,” said Fleming. “Upon further research, we found there is no documentation for that ISD?number. It’s not Easton, it’s not Wells. You never know with old deeds and abstracts.”

Fleming assured the board there were other ways around the issue, and was not a great concern, but still found the topic interesting all the same.

Approved of a second full-time school social worker. According to USC administration, it’s not new news to hear their current social worker, Jennifer Crawford, has been “stretched extremely thin” with the amount of work she’s had to do the past few years as the only social worker for USC schools. That’s why the USC personnel committee recommended to the Board to hire one more full-time social worker.

USC’s principals have stated that Crawford is not getting to everything the students need due to her lack of staff, and want what is best for the students.

Board member Brad Heggen asked who evaluated the school social worker position, with response from the chairman, Dale Stevermer, that both principals evaluate the position.

“If the pupil ratio justifies an added social worker, then I won’t refute that,” said Heggen.

“Would there be one in the elementary and one in the high school? How would this work?” asked Board member Tom Legred.

“I believe what our principals are suggesting is to split the duties as evenly as they can and work together,”?said Fleming.

With discussion at a lull, the board approved the second full-time social worker position.

Heard an update of the school’s property and liability insurance from Jeff Schumacher of Wells Insurance Agency. Schumacher suggested the school take advantage of the EMC on-call nurse programs.

“We seem to have quite a few ‘trip and falls’ when it comes to our reports from the school but don’t get much follow up from them because it is not needed,” said Schumacher. “If you take advantage of the on-call nurse program, anyone on staff with an injury can talk to a nurse to see if further attention is needed. Another benefit is that when a report is made, it is automatically filed for the state and keeps the added paperwork out of the district’s hands.”

Schumacher also suggested the school have their second walk around the school for any hazardous concerns, which is regulatory of the school’s insurance program.

Agreed to bring Raven Suhr on as the second student representative for the USC?school board. Current student representative, Hart, agreed that Suhr would be an added benefit to the current board.