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Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

District to spend copiously on tech

By Doug Drexler
COLDWATER - The district will spend more than a quarter of a million dollars next year to put new technology in the hands of students and teachers.
Chromebook computers will be given to 700 students in grades 7-12 next year at a cost of about $325 apiece; 75 devices also have been bought for teachers, Superintendent Rich Seas said.
Cost for the laptops is just over $250,000, Seas said. The district is also spending $135,000 to upgrade its network and improve its WiFi capability. Another $60,000 will be spent to update teachers' in-class computers.
Teachers have already received the Chromebooks so they can become accustomed to them during the summer, Seas said.
Board member Todd Bills said he regularly hears the district is behind the technology curve. He asked technology director Robert Smith if these purchases would answer that question.
"We're giving them (teachers) what they need, right?" Bills asked.
Smith said the district will not trail other districts when it comes to the hardware in use next year.
"We found a device that blankets everyone well," he said. "It's great stuff. It's certainly what we need."
However, it will be up to teachers to make sure the technology is used to its full advantage, he said. Teachers will use an Acer Chromebook that features a touchscreen to make interface with smartboards easier. Students will receive a more durable Dell version, he said.
"I'm very passionate about it," Smith said. "There's no doubt in my mind when this rolls out next August it will be a big success."
The district will not shift its entire curriculum onto the technology, but teachers will be able to use online tools to reinforce what is taught in the classroom, Smith said. Since so much of the learning will be cloud-based, it was vital the district update its wireless network.
Students will lease the Chromebooks and at the end of the devices' expected three-year lifespan will likely be able to buy them for a nominal cost, Seas said. Lease terms and prices are being finalized.
Students will need to come into school around Aug. 1 to learn how to use - and not use - the devices, Smith said.
Seas said parents will need to come in and sign off on how their children can use the devices.
Board members also learned almost 90 percent of Coldwater's sophomores had likely passed all five sections of the Ohio Graduation Test. The district received preliminary data showing 96 of the 107 sophomores had passed all five sections, said supervisor of student services Paula Byers. Passage rates for the five tests were 95 percent for writing and reading, 97 percent for math, 96 percent for social studies and 92 percent for science, she said. The success rate was similar to those of recent years.
Senior Krista Burrows approached the board for help in paying for a trip to the SkillsUSA national competition in medical terminology in Kansas City. The Tri Star student earned the chance to compete at nationals by winning a gold medal at the state competition, Tri Star teacher Janet Nelson said. Cost for the seven-day trip to Kansas City was about $3,100. Tri Star Director Tim Buschur said the board typically pays the registration fee. He estimated the cost to be about $300 for the district. Seas said the board will likely pay the fee when the exact cost is determined. Burrows plans to become a radiologist, she said.
Board members also,
• learned elementary school students had raised $410 - $204 from the staff and $206 from students - by having a mini-walk to fight juvenile diabetes to show support for a classmate with the disease.
• approved summer contracts for technology work to Nathan Hemmelgarn, Nate Ranly, Dustin Seger and Jon Wenning and for custodial work to Gary Sudhoff, Mike Seitz, Riley Muhlenkamp, Karen Bergman, Collin Seitz, Luke Bruggeman, Tina Bruggeman, Brianna Obringer, Holly Rindler and Renee Jutte.
• approved supplemental contracts for varsity boys basketball coach Mike Bruns; assistant boys basketball coaches Nick Fisher, Chad Miller and Ken Fisher; junior high boys basketball coach Jeff Kerr; and varsity girls basketball coach Connie May.
• approved pupil activity contracts to varsity girls bowling coach Rick Hartings, assistant girls bowling coach Wes Stienecker, varsity wrestling coach Rob Schmidt and varsity swimming coach Janell Miller.
• had an executive session to discuss negotiations, employment and compensation. The current three-year contract with the union representing the district's 93 teachers expires June 30.
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