Staff evaluate technology needs
By Erik Buchinger
Clintonville Middle School Principal Troy Kuhn discussed upgrading technology at the Jan. 8 school board meeting.
Kuhn said the proposals and ideas were a group effort that included principals, technology department, the superintendent and others.
According to Kuhn, the group discussed limiting the presence of Camera Corner employees at the district to cut costs.
“The technology team feels that’s probably not the best allocation of money and resources,” Kuhn said. “We specifically want to gear them towards what happens behind the scenes, not fixing Chromebooks, not meeting with kids and doing that stuff. They should be there to make sure our internet is running and make sure our servers are up to date.”
Kuhn said Camera Corner is on site five days a week, which is what the contract requires.
“This contract has been automatically approved every single year on March 1, and that’s why I’m bringing this to your attention,” Kuhn said. “We want to redo that contract so it’s not automatically approved.”
Kuhn said with discussions with people from Camera Corner and the technology team, he is looking to reducing it to two or three on-site days.
“Our goal is to reduce the Camera Corner costs and do more things in-house,” Kuhn said.
Kuhn said he would like the district to hire somebody for a data analyst/data controller position, which would include setting up accounts for new students or staff with the goal being to have one in-house employee to be the go-to person for these tasks.
“Not only will it be more effective, it’s more efficient,” Kuhn said.
Kuhn said some of the money saved from cutting a few days off of Camera Corner’s on-site presence can be shifted to the contract of the new data analyst/data controller.
The group went into each classroom and computer lab to evaluate the district’s technology. Kuhn said the cost estimation was not as much has he had anticipated.
“It was a tedious process, but we needed to know where to start to where we wanted to go,” Kuhn said. “We found out it was not quite as bad as we thought.
“What we’re looking at doing is better utilizing our computer labs so really our computer lab use should be Macintosh for upper level high school programs or photo editing. The majority of stuff can be on Chromebooks and beefing up one Windows lab to the high school for our business classes so it works better for the technical colleges.”
Kuhn said the three-year plan includes improving the computer-aided design lab and upgrading the second and third computer labs at the high school.
In addition, Kuhn said he would like for the staff computers to be updated.
“A lot of the money the last three years has been allocated to students,” Kuhn said. “What’s happening is the teachers and the quality of teaching is behind now because everything has been dedicated to the student technology.”
Kuhn said the project cost is less than his original estimate.
“My original estimate was probably between a half-million dollars to three-quarters of a million dollars,” Kuhn said. “It’s not quite that bad.”
Kuhn said he met with the district’s business manager Lynette Edwards to break down the cost.
“We feel that through all of our data that we should be able to do it for around $100,000 for three years, so it would be $300,000,” Kuhn said.
Kuhn said he wanted the board to keep in mind some of the reoccurring costs on the budget.
“The other thing I want you to focus on is budget reoccurring costs,” Kuhn said. “Just to make the technology in this district run is $212,000 a year.
“You’re looking at probably $100,000 every year to keep it up to date.”
Kuhn said he visited other districts, which passed referendums giving all schools in the district the same technology.
“I toured a couple districts this summer, and they’re passing $2 million technology referendums, and they’re giving everybody the same stuff,” Kuhn said.
Kuhn said by going through the evaluation, the group determined the high school, middle school and elementary in Clintonville did not need the same technology.
“In the assessment, we really figured out what teachers will best utilize what technology in the classroom,” Kuhn said. “That’s why that number dropped so much.”
“We literally have internet access at Longfellow where you have to take a paperclip if something goes wrong and hit the reset button,” Kuhn said.
Kuhn said the school’s computer technician has to manually do everything in every room at Rexford-Longfellow Elementary School.
“Nothing can be controlled offsite; it all has to physically be there,” Kuhn said. “There are opportunities to fix that.”
Kuhn said it could cost between $60,000 and 80,000 to get Wi-Fi to Longfellow the way it is at the middle and high schools.
“Half of that can be state funded, so now we’re talking about $45,000 the district would have to put into that,” Kuhn said. “There’s grants out there and there’s also the E-rate money. The category 2 of E-rate money can be used to upgrade Wi-Fi. Let’s say $100,000 just to be safe. Fifty thousand of that has to come from the district. The other 50 percent will be paid either by the state or we can apply for a TEACH Grant.”
Kuhn acknowledged the possibility of another elementary school referendum coming in the future.
“I would recommend that if Longfellow is in the picture three more years, you upgrade it,” Kuhn said. “If you’re going to try to do another referendum, how long do we want to prolong the elementary kids being behind of other schools? You can talk with the fifth grades staff. It’s a huge learning curve with technology one-to-one with how to type an email, how to use your drive, all that stuff, because it’s not being utilized. It’s almost part of your life in the middle and high school.
“The big decision for the future of technology is really Longfellow because if we want to go to a true one-to-one, we can’t even think about doing that unless we’re going to upgrade the Wi-Fi,” Kuhn said.
“What I’m asking for is discussion because the state is going to push in the other amount of money, but that means we’ve got to sit down, get this grant written and get our funds allocated and build that into our plan,” Kuhn said. “Otherwise, we just update the labs down there, and we’re done with Longfellow. Literally done because there’s no more upgrading we can do there.”
Superintendent David Dyb said the board should come back ready to discuss some direction for Kuhn at the next scheduled board meeting on Monday, Jan. 22.