The Monett R-1 Board of Education has voted to take the unprecedented step of buying laptop computers for every student and teacher at Monett High School. The action followed the first in what will be a series of recommendations from the 21st Century Learning Task Force.
"The computer is a piece of technology, just a tool," said Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann. "It's what we do with the tool that will matter."
The task force will implement procedures and training to create a 24/7 learning environment. Jungmann said the computers will take learning out of the brief classroom setting. The high school will become the first building-wide one-to-one learning environment.
Action taken now enabled the district to take advantage of significant price breaks on year-end models from Apple. Board members voted to enter into a three-year lease agreement with Apple Computers that will range between $750,000 to $850,000. Purchase of the year-end models will save the district about $100,000 over the length of the lease.
"This is a significant step forward for Monett R-1 and an exciting time as we work to prepare kids for tomorrow, and not just continue to same educational practices used for the last several decades," Jungmann said.
Committees within the task force will be developing guidelines on communicating, teaching teachers, showing both students and parents how the computers are to be used and setting policies for their use.
The task force is still working on its final recommendations on implementation and a timeline. Computers are expected to roll out in late fall and early winter.
Board members approved the tax levy for the year with no change. The operating levy will be at $3.0916 per $100 of assessed property. The debt service will be 56 cents.
The overall valuation increased by almost $1.4 million, thanks to a 1 percent growth in new construction. Jungmann said the increase was lower than usual. However, personal property valuations have fallen over the last three years and were down by $256,111 this year. Maintaining gains in stressed economic times reflected well on the district, Jungmann said.
The annual board secretary's report to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was approved. The report showed the district's operating fund balance ended the 2010-11 school year at 26 percent, or $4.8 million.
Normally, the district tries to achieve an operating reserve between 18 and 20 percent. Enrollment growth and higher than expected funding through the state's Foundation Formula boosted the total. Jungmann said the district does not want to maintain a high reserve and will look at ways to spend money to best educate every child in the district.
"That's only about three to four months of operating funds," Jungmann said. "It's a cushion in case something happens at the state level, we can continue."
Board members approved a contract to sell the house built by the construction technology class at the Southwest Area Career Center that was moved to Eighth and Scott streets. The buyer agreed to a $75,000 price. Jungmann said offers came within the first two weeks of advertising. The sale will enable the construction technology class to proceed with a new house project.
The addition of a storm shelter at the new gym at Monett Elementary School opened the possibility of similar resources coming to other campuses. Board members approved submitting notice to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that if additional funds become available, the R-1 District would like to add two more shelters.
One would be placed at the high school to serve its students and those at SWACC. Another would be placed for use by Monett Middle School and Monett Intermediate School students. Jungmann said applying for funds was a long shot.
Principals reviewed construction and building improvements. Monett Elementary Principal Susie Gasser reviewed the new procedures in place for picking up and dropping off students. The time needed for transportation connections had been significantly reduced since the first day. Gasser expected to tweak procedures over next two weeks.
Jungmann said accolades continued for Sapp and Associates for the architectural design for Monett Elementary. A community grand opening will be held when construction concludes later in the fall.
Improvements at Central Elementary School were completed on time. Principal Annette Cozort said the new lighting had significantly brightened the hallways, cafeteria and gym. The new color in the hallways had been well received.
Board members voted to add a new canopy on the west entrance at Central Park. The work could not be finished before school began so they opted to start later. Jungmann expected construction will take about six weeks.
With the city moving forward on plans to replace the ball field lights at North Park, board members voted to help. They committed $40,000 from the 2012-13 budget for lights on the field where the high school team plays. The city plans to make changes next fall.
"We have an incredible partnership with the city," Jungmann said. "The least we can do is help toward improving the facilities."
State program update
The new Missouri law limiting social media contact between teachers and students has created concerns within the education community. Jungmann said the Missouri School Boards Association was developing a policy on the new law and was likely to file suit. Other suits have been filed by the Missouri State Teachers Association and at least one teacher.
"It's real unclear what the law means," Jungmann said.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has submitted a new rule change as part of the fifth phase of the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP). The new rule does not mandate as much testing of students as previously proposed. Jungmann said the policy should help the R-1 District.
The next board meeting will be on Tuesday, Sept. 20, in the administrative office.