LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – When the Internet was “The Next Big Thing,” about 10 years ago, just being able to get online and see what it offered satisfied students and teachers alike. It gave them a glimpse of a glittering future. Now, a decade later, ‘Net access in the Pottsgrove School District and elsewhere is no longer a hope but a hard-working educational tool, and technology needed to make it work even harder for learners costs money.
In Pottsgrove during the 2009-2010 school year, it’s recommended to cost $1.066 million.
District Director of Technology Dr. Kristen Kozloski laid out next year’s wish list Tuesday (Jan. 27, 2009) to the Board of School Directors, noting her requests were $157,000 lower than those sought in the previous year, even though some proposals could take classroom education to higher levels. That’s possible, in part, she said, because the district already has necessary pieces in place.
School board members Tuesday approved plans by Kozloski and her staff to lay optical fiber cable between the district office and Pottsgrove Middle School, and West and Lower Pottsgrove elementary schools. That improvement, which boosts bandwidth for computers to operate, will get under way this spring for completion by September. It was included in $209,000 Kozloski had budgeted next year for computer maintenance and repair.
The remainder of the $1.066 million is slated for the purchase of new equipment, $391,000; replacing existing but outdated equipment, $271,000; computer software, $96,000; contracted services from outside vendors, $30,000; and computer supplies and peripherals, $54,000. Beyond money authorized for the district’s “fiber build-out,” as board members referred to the optical cable project, the rest of Kozloski’s requests are still under discussion.
Teacher and student eagerness to use laptop computers in the classroom prompted Kozloski to budget money for three additional carts carrying 15 laptops each in both Ringing Rocks and West Pottsgrove elementary schools; five carts in Lower Pottsgrove Elementary, and three more carts in the Middle School. For those uses alone, she acknowledged, the district would purchase 210 new computers. Others were to be used in special and gifted education.
The district already operates video conferencing equipment used regularly by students at the high school. Kosloski’s equipment budget also includes the suggested purchase of a portable video conferencing unit that could offer similar services to outlying buildings.
One of Kozloski’s smaller budget items, her proposed $54,000 for supplies, raised greatest concern among board members. It wasn’t cost they complained about; instead, it was service they said the district wasn’t getting.
The largest portion of Kozloski’s supplies budget is scheduled to be spent on toner for centralized printers and copiers the district now uses in its fourth year of a 5-year lease. They’re notorious for breaking down, board President Michael Neiffer pointed out. “As a parent, not just a board member, I find it really frustrating when an assignment your child is supposed to bring home doesn’t come home because the school’s copier isn’t working,” he said.
Problems are worst in Lower Pottsgrove Elementary and the Middle School, district administrators said. District Business Manager David Nester said he was working with the copier vendor to find solutions.
The board’s review of Kozloski’s technology budget is the first of several it will conduct in coming weeks as it prepares the overall district budget for 2009-2010. By virtue of its Jan. 13 agreement to limit raising district taxes next year by no more than 5.2 percent, the budget is expected to be restricted to about $52 million.
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