At Monday’s work session, the county board of education added the new “bring-your-own-technology” policy to its consent agenda for approval at Thursday’s meeting.
The policy reads that “Students shall be permitted to bring to school electronic communication devices, including cellular phones, with the specific provision that students shall not be permitted to use any personal electronic communication device without permission of school administration.”
Included in the policy are a few simple, concrete rules, including that no technology may be used without the expressed permission of the instructor, and that all websites accessed must be done on the school’s Wi-Fi network. Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Stan Davis said he and other members from the central office went on a trip to Whitewater High School in Fayette County to observe how the school’s BYOT policy works.
As a former principal, Superintendent Scott Cowart said the policy was “scary,” but hearing the positive things Whitewater High students said got him excited for the policy to be rolled out.
“Everyone we’ve spoken to has extremely positive things to say,” the superintendent said in September. “Student engagement is up and student discipline is down. And I think that’s because they’re engaged in a way they want to be engaged. It’s part of the evolution of where we are going.”
The policy can be viewed online by going to the system’s website, clicking on the “Board Policies” link and clicking on the “Use of Electronic Devices by Students” policy under Pending Policies. Commenting is also allowed on the website, and it can be anonymous.
Cowart had said previously that teachers will have “plenty of control” over how the technology is used in the classroom.
Davis said his group, made up of his department, the student services department and high school principals, paid a visit to Whitewater High, a school of 1,581 students that’s currently in its second year of the BYOT policy.
The group was allowed to enter five classrooms and ask questions of students and teachers before hearing a presentation from the principal on the pros and cons of the policy.
Chief Financial Officer Greg Denney gave his financial report, saying the system is three months (or 25 percent) into its fiscal year and has expended 25.71 percent of its budget, which he said was “very good.”
Denney told the board that the system’s fund equity was at $4.8 million at the end of September, and that there might potentially be a problem paying faculty and staff before Thanksgiving. The CFO said it would be more likely to expect paychecks by the end of November, instead of during the third week.
Denney said he was worried the fund equity would depreciate enough in the coming month so that cutting paychecks would not be possible before property taxes were tallied in early December.
The board agreed to attempt to pay all teachers and staff before Thanksgiving, but if the system had to borrow money to do it, that it was best to wait until the end of November.
Several board members pointed out that getting them paid before Thanksgiving would actually help them out because it would give staff members a chance to shop on Black Friday, giving the system more SPLOST funds.
Denney also reported on the $1,059,000 SPLOST check the system received, making September the seventh consecutive month with a check totaling more than $1 million.
Coordinator of maintenance Mike Beers reported on several schools’ construction projects, including gymnasiums at Temple High and Villa Rica High, both projected to be completed in November.
Beers also reported on the bid proposals received for the Central High classroom and kitchen additions. The front wing of CHS, the 100 hall, is planned to be completely renovated within the next year.
Local construction company J&R Construction was awarded the bid proposal, which comes to almost $3.6 million when all alternates are factored in.
The project will leave the administration office and cafeteria untouched, but will remove the middle section of classrooms between the office and the cafeteria.
J&R Construction’s timeline reported that the project should be done by December 2013.
The board will meet Thursday at Midway Church at 7 p.m. Teachers of the year will be announced and honored, causing the change of venue.