School board talks replacing student devices

The Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees opened its first meeting of 2020 on Monday, Jan. 13, by organizing board offices and committee appointments.

The officers will remain the same as 2019: Mathew Roth will serve as president, with Brian Warpup as vice president and Gary McClellan as secretary. Edette Eckert will remain as treasurer.

Board member Reed Christiansen will be retained as the trustees’ legislative liaison; the bid opening committee will remain the same, comprised of HCCSC Superintendent Chad Daugherty, Assistant Superintendent for Business and Classified Staff Scott Bumgardner and Eckert; Bumgardner will also be retained on the common wage committee; and Roth, Warpup and McClellan will remain on the board of finance.

All elections and appointments were approved unanimously by board members’ votes. The board also voted to keep the same compensation for board members – $2,000 – as in the previous year.

After the board concluded its housekeeping agenda items, it got to work considering replacement of student devices, which were initially purchased beginning in 2016. The board unanimously approved advertising for bids to purchase 3,000 of the 1:1 devices for grades 6 through 12, which are currently using MacBooks, and 250 teacher devices. This time, however, the devices that will replace the outdated ones may not be Apple products.

Bumgardner, unhappy with the long, five-year lease currently in place for the devices, said the school corporation just made its last payment on the student MacBooks and he is opting for a two-year lease on the next devices.

Daugherty said this time around, in a year-long process administrators and small groups looked at not only Apple devices, but also HP and Chromebook laptops. The devices needed to be very powerful to be able to support digital design software as well as Adobe products.

Chromebook was eliminated as not being able to meet the demands of high school work, leaving comparisons between Apple and HP. It was HP – with Windows – that won the recommendation of those participating in the search.

Bumgardner reported HCCSC is currently paying $1 million per year to Apple for five-year leases on devices, which is keeping the corporation from meeting needs on textbooks and other classroom resource needs. The recommendation for the new devices will save just under $750,000 he added, with costs estimated at around $1 million for student devices and $167,500 for teacher devices. That breaks down to an expected cost of about $250 for student devices and $450 for teacher devices.

The bid will go out for 15-inch Windows laptops with a 256-gigabyte hard drive for teachers, and 11-inch Windows laptops with 128 Gb hard drives for students, Bumgardner said, with the district keeping the same laptop cases that are currently being used. The district plans to pay cash for the teacher devices, he added.

“We’re not getting a device that will not do the things that our teachers are doing in the classroom,” he said. “We’ll be able to supply that, but we’ll also have more flexibility going forward.”

In refreshing the devices, Daugherty told the board he wants the same type of resources available to teachers across the district, citing social studies and science resources as examples of 1:1 resources needed.

Daugherty also said textbook rental fees – which include the computer devices – are also a consideration, with $225 currently charged parents of middle and high-schoolers for the MacBook Air.

“If you have multiple children – I do – you’re paying a lot of money for TBR (textbook rental),” he added. “I know this is something the board would like to see TBR costs going (down). So we took that into consideration.”

Daugherty also said those families who use their own MacBooks rather than paying rent may continue to do so, with a “seamless” transition that will coordinate with the new devices and technology.

Christiansen, who said he was also not a fan of the five-year leases, expressed his appreciation of the homework done to lower the cost of the devices, and ultimately, the textbook rental fees assessed to parents.

“We didn’t just jump into it blindly like we did when we originally introduced it,” he said. “Just looking at the timeline and how we’ve put in certain factors toward this decision has been responsible and I appreciate that.”

Bids will be accepted by HCCSC until Jan. 31, with shipment expected by May 1.

The board also approved the advertising of bids to purchase 50 “interactive displays” to replace current “smart boards” that are becoming obsolete in elementary and middle school classrooms. The vote was 6-1, with Board Member Brian Warpup voting against the motion.

One interactive display will be provided to each grade in the elementary schools, while the middle schools will have 10 interactive displays per school.

In other business, policy revisions to Vol. 30, No. 2 of the corporation’s policies were unanimously approved on their second reading.

The revisions addressed issues such as anti-harassment, nondiscrimination; access to equal employment and educational opportunities; reduction in force (“RIF”) in certified staff; drug and alcohol testing, use of seclusion and restraint with students; extra-curricular funds; and staff use of personal communication devices.