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Kenmare School Board tables levy of 5 mills for computers

The Kenmare school board is considering asking voters to approve a levy of 5 mills to help pay for technology needs in the district.

2/09/11 (Wed)

By Caroline Downs

The Kenmare school board is considering asking voters to approve a levy of 5 mills to help pay for technology needs in the district.
Board member Craig Ellsworth started the discussion as he gave a report from the Curriculum and Technology Committee. “We want to give the teachers and students the tools for technology,” he said. “We’re also looking at the cost it takes to do that.”
He said the committee, along with teachers Tarra Froseth and Michelle Bauer, talked about purchasing netbooks for student use. A netbook is basically a scaled-down version of a laptop computer, with Internet capabilities but relatively little memory of its own.
Ellsworth reported the netbooks could be purchased at a cost of $400 each, loaded with a Windows operating system and ready to use. If the district purchased the 125 netbooks proposed, the cost would be $52,000. Additional expenses would include a security system that would allow teachers to monitor computer use in their classrooms.
The current district budget has $120,000 listed for technology equipment and $26,000 for technology support to pay the part-time IT coordinator.
The committee suggested adding $30,000 to the tech support line item to increase the tech coordinator’s position to full-time.
The 5 mill levy, if approved, would generate between $46,000 and $47,000 annually.
Board members discussed the proposal, talking about student use of both iPads and netbooks, number and location of printers for student use, expenses related to maintaining the equipment, access to the computers after the school day ended, and the need for a regular rotation to replace the computers.
Superintendent Duane Mueller said he was confident the school’s current server and wireless system could handle the number of computers. He was concerned about the operation of 100 or so computers while the ITV lab was operating, but that issue is related to the fiber optics capacity supplied to the school.
Business manager Renae Murphy reminded the board that her computer system, which coordinates with the State Department of Public Instruction’s system, will be outdated at the end of the current year, with a replacement costing between $10,000 and $12,000.
Board member Roger Johnson noted that the administrators and several teachers had worked hard to secure thousands of dollars in technology grants for the district. “But we have a need for this mill levy,” he said. “There needs to be a reliable, steady source of income to upgrade and to maintain this equipment.”
Lenny Rodin reported next for the Negotiations and Finance Committee about the upcoming budget. “Our revenue is projected to increase about $85,000,” he said, “and that’s because of the increase in taxable valuations.”
He said the committee anticipated an increase in most of the line items in the budget, as well as adding another staff member at the elementary level to accommodate the need for two kindergarten, two first grade and two second grade classrooms. “The increase is about $93,000 more than budgeted in the previous year,” Rodin said, “and that could be a little bit short of the revenue, looking at the current projections.”
Ellsworth offered a motion to include the 5 mill levy question on the ballot for voters during the annual school board election. Board members discussed the issue extensively and debated whether or not to include a five-year cap on the levy before evaluating its effectiveness and need.
“That way, the community could see the results after five years,” Ellsworth said.
“I don’t want people to have the impression this is a five-year deal and then we’re done with it,” countered board member David King. “We all know this is long-term.”
Ellsworth’s motion died for lack of a second. Board members approved a motion by King to table any action on the proposed mill levy until the March board meeting.
Board members welcome questions and comments from the public about the proposed technology levy of five mills.
Construction list
getting shorter
Superintendent Duane Mueller reviewed a list of items from the high school construction project that still needed attention, including some electrical work in the library, plumbing for a sink in the former library storage area, tile cleaning in the corridor, a couple of small leaks within the new plumbing for the heating system, and two new door handles with broken locks.
He noted the heat still needed to be balanced in two or three classrooms and that a strong gas smell was evident in some of the Phase II rooms. “There’s nothing we can define that is causing that issue,” he said, adding that custodian Jerry Mickelsen had checked several possible causes but found nothing.
Mueller said he was working to notify architect James Devine about these issues and that getting contractors back to check and fix the problems had been difficult. “The list is getting shorter,” he said, “and I’ve asked the teachers to start their own laundry lists on warranty work they see in their rooms.”
Mueller also mentioned concerns about the oil burning furnace, the coal hopper and the augers, with repairs or replacement to be considered in the near future.
2nd graders report
on Ladybug Bill
Second graders Jaden McNeiley, Isabel Schwab, Megan Zimmer and Logan Redding, accompanied by teacher Tami McNeiley, spoke to the school board about their project to see a law passed to designate the convergent lady beetle as the state insect
The students shared a few facts about the benefits of the lady beetles, showed a video that highlighted reasons why the lady beetle should be chosen, and sang the two songs they have written to help state legislators and others remember the importance of the lady beetle.
Board members and administrators asked the students questions about their trip to Bismarck to testify before a House committee and their preparations for an upcoming Senate committee hearing. The House passed the bill, which was introduced by Rep. Glen Froseth of Kenmare, on Thursday.
Rodin thanked the students for their presentation. “We’re proud of you guys and the work that you’ve done,” he said, adding that he had heard from a former classmate with questions about the Kenmare kids and the ladybug bill. “This is going to re-write the history books!”
Committee explores
Bowbells basketball co-op
David King gave a short report from the Activities Committee regarding the possibility of establishing a co-op agreement with Bowbells Public School for boys and girls basketball in grades 5-12. The Activities Committee met with representatives from Bowbells, who will present the issue to their own school board for consideration.
Details of the agreement included keeping “Honkers” as the teams’ mascot, utilizing coaches from both schools, scheduling games and practices, and ways to share expenses. King noted the schools’ activity tickets would be accepted at both locations for basketball games.
Wrestling co-op
Superintendent Mueller shared information from the Tioga school district about forming a wrestling co-op with Kenmare and Stanley, but he pointed out the effort had been made before with no success. Kenmare and Tioga are currently in a wrestling co-op, and board member and wrestling coach Lars Christensen noted that the Stanley program had a high number of wrestlers. Board members agreed the new co-op would not be pursued at this time.
In other business:
• Murphy reported the district was now receiving tax dollars. She also reminded board members that $50,000 of the building fund would need to be used for a loan payment this year toward the district’s recent remodeling projects at both buildings, leaving approximately $40,000 for the district to spend.
• The board will hold its retreat on Wednesday, March 9th, beginning at 8:30 am with the superintendent’s evaluation and continuing throughout the school day. A variety of topics will be discussed, including the district’s technology needs, building issues, the bus fleet, and required band or piano lab classes for fifth and sixth grade students next year. The session will take place at the high school and is open to the public.
• The next regular meeting of the Kenmare school board will be Tuesday, March 15th, beginning at 7 pm at the high school.