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Kenmare School board looks at options to provide a computer to every student

Kenmare Public School may provide a computer for every student in the near future.

11/24/10 (Wed)


Kenmare Public School may provide a computer for every student in the near future.


The Kenmare school board discussed the possibility of offering technology along with textbooks during their regular meeting held Thursday. Several questions about security, payment, use and repair, distribution and software were voiced by board members during the session.


Curriculum and Technology Committee chair Craig Ellsworth raised the topic during a report of the committee’s recent meeting with teachers Tarra Froseth, Michelle Bauer and Terese Skjordal. “At first glance, we thought there should be a machine in each child’s hands, but there wasn’t a lot of strong support for that,” Ellsworth said. “The teachers wanted machines for use in the classroom.”


The district also received word on November 9th that a $100,000 No Child Left Behind Title II-D technology grant will be awarded to Kenmare schools. Superintendent Duane Mueller told the board that representatives from EduTech in North Dakota will arrive in December to observe classroom activities and to interview teachers, students and parents about technology use and needs in the district, regarding the grant.


“They just want to see what we have currently,” Mueller said, “and then have a discussion about what kinds of new technology to bring in.


He noted that meetings held for the North Dakota Curriculum Initiative had focused on 21st century learning. “Kids need to be able to think through situations and problem solve,” he said. “We now have ‘digital kids’ or ‘I-kids’ and we have to rethink our technology. I see a need in our district. What we did 20 years ago doesn’t quite cut it.”


Laptop computers, smaller netbooks and the new iPads have all been considered for use by Kenmare students, but board member Mike Zimmer reported about another option from a session he attended at the North Dakota School Boards Association convention in October. “They recommended using Internet sites where teachers posted their lessons,” he said. “The students could access it from home.”


“The kids might have a computer at home, but accessing it for homework may be a problem,” countered board member David King.


Zimmer expressed concern about keeping the computers maintained and operating properly. “How does a tech staff keep up with 150 laptops?” he asked.


Board members talked about expanding the current technology coordinator position, held by Arnold Jordan, from part-time to full-time.


The committee has scheduled a December 2nd visit to the Stanley school district, where computers are provided for students in grades 7 through 12 to use at school and home. The Fessenden school district also used iPads and netbooks with the students, and committee members may contact staff there for information and advice.


“It’s nice not to go into this blindly,” said Superintendent Mueller. “We can learn from what another district has done.”


Required band to be

revisited in December

Board president Lenny Rodin asked to revisit the idea of required band classes for fifth and sixth grade students. “I want to put that item on the agenda for the next meeting,” he said.


He noted the class’s impact on the district budget and his own interest in hearing from teachers in Sawyer, where elementary band is a required class. Another question had to do with handling new fifth and sixth grade students who arrived mid-year with no experience in band.


Board member Jan Kostad raised questions about the procedure for instrument purchase by students who chose to continue band in seventh grade, as well as the schedule for students leaving the fifth and sixth grade classrooms. “I assumed if a child was in band, he or she would be leaving the same hour every day,” he said, “when really, there are only six or eight kids out of the classroom at a time.”


Kostad explained that the current procedure for beginning band involved groups of students who play the same instrument meeting with Mr. Starr for their lessons. The whole band rehearses together less often, in preparation for performances.


“I’ve had quite a few comments from parents who are not happy about [required band],” said Zimmer.


“Do you have those parents talk to Mr. Mueller?” asked King, adding that the administrators needed to hear those concerns.


Ellsworth reminded board members that the original goal for requiring elementary band was to get more students interested and participating in band. “We don’t want to get stuck on just the fact of required band,” he said. “If there are other ways to achieve that goal, we should look at those, too.” He promised to have the curriculum and technology committee look into the questions raised by board members.


“It was a close vote,” Rodin said. “I want to do more research. Before we get into this too much more, I’d like to revisit it next month as a full board.”


Parents research new

playground equipment

Kostad, chairman of the Building Committee, reported on a recent meeting held with a group of five parents who had looked into options for adding playground equipment at Kenmare High School for use by fourth, fifth and sixth graders.


The parents and students from those grades suggested a system sold by a division of Dakota Fence Company. The 15 proposed play units would cover a space of 3,500 square feet at a cost of $46,500 for the equipment. A base material would cover the ground under the equipment, with a cost of $6.50 per square foot for rubberized pellets or $1.75 per square foot for a wood chips/mesh combination. Timbers would edge the boundary of the equipment area, at a cost of $2,900.


Dakota Fence Co. would install the play units for a fee equal to 30 percent of the cost of the equipment, or about $15,000, but Building Committee members and the parents believed volunteers could do the work with Dakota Fence sending a supervisor for the project at a cost of $600 per day, plus expenses.


Kostad reported that Dakota Fence had placed similar equipment in 60 to 70 schools and cities in the area within the last five years. The company would also provide a lifetime warranty for the fixed segments of the equipment and a 50-year warranty for the moving parts.


“Because they’re local, they will come through here once a year and inspect it,” Ellsworth said. “They’re the only company who does [playground equipment] within 300 miles.”


“At this point, this is all information for the board,” Kostad said. “There could be a three to five percent increase in the price of the equipment, but our committee decided to table this until March. We were impressed with the group of parents who did the footwork and all the research.”


He noted that the equipment was targeted toward kids in the upper elementary grades, with slides, ball games and climbing games featured among the units.


“I think the parents did a really good job with this,” added board member Lars Christensen. “Our recommendation is to wait until we have a better handle on the budget [for next year].”


High school renovation

almost complete

Board members discussed a tentative open house date of December 21st, following the elementary Christmas concert, to show off the renovation and remodeling work soon to be completed at the high school.


Superintendent Mueller reported on the few issues remaining with the project, including some tile cleanup, the installation of a counter top in one of the science classrooms, the location of the gas valves in the science classrooms and a few items left on the punch list. He expected project architect James Devine of J2 Studio in Bismarck to visit the school for another walk-through within the coming week.


Board members praised Mueller’s supervision of the project, even at times when the responsibility technically lay with someone else. “If we’re having problems getting things done, Mr. Mueller shouldn’t be walking around checking this,” Zimmer said.


Board members approved a motion to increase the Building Fund to $1.1 million for the year, at the recommendation of business manager Renae Murphy. “There’s been $958,000 spent now,” she said, “and there will be an interest payment for the year.”


Murphy provided board members with an updated list of the project expenses for the elementary and high schools, which totaled $1,658,014.42 as of the meeting. That total included $1.535 million for construction costs to date, $112,807.63 in architecture fees and $10,000 in bond costs.


Further analysis showed $824,284.27 paid to American General, $244,418.63 paid to Kipps Heating, and $304,113.29 paid to Mayer Electric, all for the high school renovation. For work done at the elementary school to change to an electric heating system, $6159.60 had been paid to CS Dubois, $103,941.00 to Northern Plains, and $51,930.00 to Bartsch Electric.


“We’ve spent about $80,000 more than we anticipated,” Murphy said, “and that would put the interim fund closer to $400,000 instead of $500,000.”


She projected the remaining costs at $155,241.21. “The only unknown is the architect’s fees,” she said. “I’m just estimating where they might end up, and I estimated a little high.”


The estimated total cost is $1,830,448.00. Murphy recommended paying the bills submitted for November, then holding payment on the final bills until the project was considered completed. Board members agreed.


Superintendent Mueller said the open house date would be announced within a week or so. “It would be nice if we could get everybody moved in and wait a week, to get settled in,” he said.


Talk of spring sports

A request by the Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood school district to form a softball co-op with Kenmare led to a broader discussion about spring activities at Kenmare High School.


“DesLacs-Burlington will start girls softball this year,” reported Superintendent Mueller, “and Carrington will have a team this year. The High School Activities Association has said that once are 12 teams in the state, there will be a state tournament.”

Murphy said that sign-up sheets for the spring sports had been made available in the business office, but that no students had committed themselves yet.


“With volleyball and everything else happening, they don’t want to think that far ahead,” said Kostad.


“We should text every girl in high school and see what activities they want to participate in,” joked Zimmer. “They’d get back to us on that.”


Mueller also told the board that MLS was interested in a potential baseball co-op. Currently, Kenmare players join the Mohall American Legion team for the summer season, although Kenmare has a co-op agreement with Bowbells for high school baseball.


“Do we want to evaluate what sports we want to offer in the spring?” asked Ellsworth. “Are we offering a sport nobody is interested in? That’s why the sign-ups are so important.”


Paperwork for a new co-op would need to be submitted by January 2011, which means the Kenmare school board would have to finalize any decisions in December.


Zimmer was concerned about the declining interest in spring sports. “We don’t have a golf coach, we don’t have a baseball coach, we don’t have a track coach,” he said. “We’ve got to know [about the students’ participation] by the next board meeting.”


Rodin requested to add the spring sports schedule to the December meeting agenda.


In Other Business:

*The board approved a contract for Dennis Kaatz as the co-head wrestling coach for the Kenmare-Tioga-Ray team. The salary for the position is split between Kaatz and the other co-head coach, Lars Christensen.


*Superintendent Mueller announced that all 16 security cameras were now installed and operating, including one on the multi-purpose building/bus barn.


*Mueller discussed the district’s participation in recent meetings held for the North Dakota Curriculum Initiative, including consideration of a better way to collect, store and access student data. “That’s what we need to focus on here,” he said. “We have so much information about the kids, but we should have an instrument we can punch all the data into, and make it accessible.”


He mentioned an interest in the AIMSweb program, a benchmark and progress monitoring system based on student assessment. The results are reported to students, parents, teachers and administrators via a web-based data management and reporting system.


*Board members conducted their semi-annual review of Superintendent Mueller’s performance.


*The Curriculum and Technology Committee, with members Ellsworth, King and Johnson, will meet Tuesday, December 7th, at 8:30 am.


*The Activities Committee, with members Zimmer, King and Christensen, will meet Tuesday, December 7th, at 9:30 am.


*The next regular meeting of the Kenmare School Board will be held Tuesday, December 21st, at 5:30 pm, followed by the Kenmare Elementary School Christmas Concert at 7 pm.