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Thursday, September 13th, 2012

School board OKs computer purchases

$54,320 in technology going to students at middle and high schools

By Amy Kronenberger
ST. MARYS - School board members on Wednesday narrowly approved purchasing 80 new computers for St. Marys middle and high schools at a cost of $54,320.
District technology coordinator Kyle Menchhofer told board members during a meeting Wednesday that 117 computers in the district either don't work at all or are very slow and not working properly. Eighty of those - many eight and nine years old - need to be replaced as soon as possible, he said.
Buying 80 Dell computers would cost $679 per computer. Buying all 117 would increase the discount, bringing the price down to $669 each.
Menchhofer said he hoped the bring-your-own-technology program would help. However, latest figures showed 50 percent of students are on free or reduced lunches and can't afford to bring their own technology.
"I know it's hard to ask for 'x' number of computers, but over the next few years, 117 will need to be replaced," he said.
Board member Brian Little said the board tried to schedule a technology committee meeting last week to discuss the issue but couldn't find a suitable time.
"I want to make a motion to move forward tonight and buy the 80 computers," Little then said. "Some teachers need new computers now. I think it would be a disservice to wait until our October meeting to vote on any computers at all."
Board members Ralph Wiley, Ronda Shelby and Lisa Tobin disagreed with moving forward so quickly. They wanted to schedule a committee meeting first.
"I understand it's frustrating, but I think we should have a committee before moving forward," Shelby said.
"I agree," Tobin added. "We can have a committee meeting next week, and if needed we can hold a special meeting to vote on buying them."
Wiley asked if more memory could be purchased for the older computers to make them more compatible with new software. Menchhofer said it can be done but finding replacement parts becomes increasingly more difficult.
Treasurer Tom Sommer said the permanent improvement fund had $292,000 as of Aug. 31. Little recommended using the funds to purchase the computers then scheduling a committee meeting as soon as possible to discuss the budget and the possibility of buying more.
Little and board member Aaron Braun voted to purchase the computers; Wiley and Tobin voted against. Shelby cast the tie breaking "yes" vote.
Wiley moved to schedule a technology committee meeting as soon as possible "so people don't think we're spending PI money on a whim." The motion passed unanimously; however, no date was set.
Also at Wednesday's meeting, curriculum coordinator Cary Roehm said she looked into the number of students participating in open enrollment and learned as of September, 102 students had eft the school and 49 have come in from other districts.
She and superintendent Shawn Brown are working on a survey to learn why so many are leaving. Preliminary results show most have always gone to another district and moved to St. Marys at some point, while others go to the school near where their parents work.
Brown said they intend to call or send a letter to all the families whose children enroll at another district.
"We want to see if there is anything we can fix, because I don't like being 53 in the hole," he said.
School board members also honored the 10, 2012 retirees from the district. Brown presented each one with a gift.
The retirees are Mike Kiehl, high school math, 29 years with the district; Lynn Sawmiller, maintenance, 30 years; Russell Bowsher, high school custodian, 29 years; Linda McMurray, primary school aide, 32 1/2 years; Kathryn Chalk, speech and hearing, 29 years; Barb Hamburg, middle school aide and teacher, 27 1/2 years; William Steinbrunner, director of instruction, eight years; Pam Vossler, middle school science, 25 years; Jim Reier, bus driver, 28 years; and Larry Gruber, high school science, 42 years.
In other action, the board,
• learned the preliminary state report card rated the district as excellent, meeting all 26 indicators. Roehm said it is only preliminary and could change, but it would be an improvement from last year's effective rating.
• learned the new trimester system at the high school has gotten off to a good start. Principal Dave Lewis said he's received a lot of positive feedback.
• approved various staff contracts.
• approved tennis bench sponsorship from St. Marys Chrysler, Ronda Shelby, Rable's Auto Service, Inc., Larry Schaaf Auto Sales, EEE Rental, Miller Funeral Home and Mark Dominik, all of St. Marys.
• changed next month's board meeting from Oct. 10 to Oct. 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium.
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