During their regularly scheduled work session Tuesday, March 5, the Haralson County Board of Education heard updates from department heads and moved several items to the consent agenda, which will be voted on during their regular meeting, Tuesday, March 12.
Dr. Marty Bray introduced a guest speaker to the board: Michael Lippman from MXN, a company who is breaking into the market of producing computer hardware and software. The product they are currently developing is an Android Tablet that would allow students access to technology in the classroom at an affordable price. Lippman came before the board to ask their permission to pilot the devices in Buchanan Elementary and West Haralson Elementary Schools.
Lippman brought the 7-inch screen tablets with him to Tuesday’s meeting to display to the board. The screen and other hardware were incased in a cardboard material Lippman said is meant to be drawn on so that students can personalize them.
“We hope the children are motivated to take care of them if they can customize their electronic notebook,” Lippman said. “Our device is dramatically different from other devices in that it allows you to make your content available to students without any other distractions because it’s not loaded with apps and they can only access websites you want them to access.”
For example, Lippman said students would not be able to search for things on Google, they would only be able to access websites for which their teacher sent them a link.
“Of course, depending on the students and the content, web functionality can be added later,” Lippman said. “It will also have a notification feature that will allow teachers to send out notifications, and it will have a voice over IP component with chat and phone capabilities later on.”
Lippman said the tablets are very bare bones, but that was a deliberate decision.
“I know this is the polar opposite of what a lot of other schools are doing right now, but we really saw a need for something like this [to eliminate students’ distraction while using devices for homework and assignments].”
The board gave Lippman and his company permission to go live with the pilot immediately.
“This is very exciting,” said Board Chairwoman Dr. Martha Smith.
In other updates, Maintenance and Facilities Director Steve Wells gave an update on the progress of several Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) projects that the board had previously approved.
“The Haralson County High School track is in its final stages,” Wells said. “Hopefully, weather permitting, the seven layers will be finished within four weeks.”
Wells said he is also looking at getting a protective covering for the track as well as talking with the High School athletic director about generating a set of rules for use that will also protect the track.
Wells also reported that the new paving of Buchanan Elementary School’s parking lot has been delayed due to the wet weather, but he hoped it would be done by the end of the month.
Chief Financial Officer for the school system Dee Wrisley also updated the board on the system’s finances. She reported that the Department of Community Health has decided to raise the amount employers contribute to their employees’ health insurance policies.
“For us, that means an extra $25 a month per employee,” she said. “That means for FY13, will see an increase of $23,000 in our expenses.”
Wrisley also presented the board with a budget amendment.
“This adds revenue from the sale of bonds, the sale of the Buchanan property and funds from the state, which we used to purchase buses, and this will add $34,000 to the ending balance,” Wrisley said.
The board moved the budget amendment to the consent agenda for next week’s meeting.
Also moved to the consent agenda:
• A new employee dental plan with MetLife, who also holds the system’s employee life insurance plans.
• A proposal from Georgia State Trooper Gus Rampy to allow troopers to ride on school buses with children in an effort to issue citations to those who illegally pass school buses.
• Permission to allow the dental organization Help a Child Smile, which brings mobile dental units to schools across the state of Georgia to service children whose parents have no transportation to dentist appointments, to operate at those schools in the county who wish to participate.
• The 2013-2014 school calendar option No. 1, which was voted for by the most community members, and will not include a mid-winter break and will end school on May 23.
• The surplussing and liquidation of several pieces of computer equipment.
• Approval for the Skills USA team to take a field trip to Atlanta to compete in the state competition.
• Allowing the Veterans of Foreign Wars to place a mobile trailer on the system’s property at the District Office, provided they take care of any utilities and costs involved with moving the trailer in.
• 10 policies regarding personnel that are up for review.
The board tabled any action regarding updates to wireless and networking infrastructure until they could gain a better idea what their budget would look like after the current SPLOST projects are completed.
The board also elected Smith to attend the annual Georgia School Board Association’s Summer Conference in Savanah, Ga., on June 14. The board elected Board member Gail Ray as an alternate.
Also during the meeting, Smith elaborated on school board protocol for participation in board meetings.
“Some people are under the impression that we do not want people to come to the meetings or to speak before the board, and that simply isn’t true,” she said.
Smith said anyone wishing to be placed on the agenda for public participation must first fill out a form at the District Office by noon the Wednesday before a meeting and then speak with Haralson County Schools Superintendent Brett Stanton.
“This gives me the opportunity to answer questions someone may have or resolve an issue that may not even need the board’s attention,” Stanton said. “If it’s something I can take care of, I will. That way, we’re not bringing things before the board that can easily be taken care of.”
The board’s regular meeting will be held at 6 p.m. March 12.