Starting in the fall, Marion schools will equip all students in grades five through 12 with a laptop computer. The school board unanimously voted on Monday to spend $95,880 for 340 Acer Chromebook laptops.
Superintendent Lee Leiker said the laptops should be able to do about 90 percent of the work classroom computers and computer labs are used for now, while allowing students to do more work at home.
After the meeting, Leiker said maintaining the status quo would have cost around $70,000 to replace aging computers. He added that Robert Moody, an education administration professor at Fort Hays State University, has been studying Chromebooks in educational settings for several years and has found they have a longer useful life than traditional laptops.
Leiker told the board that the district has already beefed up its computer network to deal with the likelihood of increased traffic, but more probably will be needed. He also said after the meeting that the district probably will seek summer help for technology director Forest Barger to prepare for the implementation of the computers.
Board member Jan Helmer said she had spoken with a second-grade teacher elsewhere using Chromebooks who was happy with them.
“I’m impressed with USD 408 for doing this,” Helmer said.
Board President Chris Sprowls said he was concerned about Internet access at home for students whose families can’t afford Internet access. He wondered if those students would benefit as much from the Chromebooks as other students. Chromebooks rely heavily on cloud storage.
Leiker said students could download any documents they will need before going home and work offline at home.
The computers will be purchased with grant and capital outlay funds, which cannot be used for salaries or other normal operating expenses.
Staff cuts recommended
After a 50-minute closed session, the board voted to hire Ellen Haslouer as part-time family and consumer sciences teacher, Alisha Frazer as high school art teacher, and Dani Lange as a third full-time kindergarten teacher.
Haslouer will replace Myrta Billings, who is retiring, and Frazer will replace Janessa Wood, whose resignation the board approved earlier in the meeting. Wood is getting married and moving. Lange, currently a part-time art teacher at the elementary school, will be filling a new position.
Leiker recommended leaving the elementary school art position vacant, as well as an elementary school Title I position currently held by Cindy Vinduska and high school industrial arts position currently held by Roger Schwab.
With Vinduska and Schwab’s resignations in March and the move to part-time family and consumer sciences, the district can have a net reduction of two teaching positions. Along with some part-time classified staff and coaching cuts, Leiker expects to save about $124,000. Combined with $120,000 in additional state aid from a court case this year, he said that would take care of any budget cuts needed.
Leiker also recommended cutting summer school for a year, to see if it has any effect on students. That will be a budget cut of about $6,000.
The board took no action on Leiker’s budget recommendations.
No waiver of valedictorian requirement
The board took no action on a request from the April meeting by Mary Maloney to waive the requirement for two credits of Spanish to qualify for valedictorian honors. Her daughters, Alicia and Caitlyn, have 4.0 grade point averages but didn’t take Spanish.
Board member Sarah Cope requested the board review valedictorian requirements for the future. Principal Tod Gordon said the high school staff has discussed moving to one required Spanish credit instead of two. Whether the board changes the policy or not, it’s important to follow policy instead of making case-by-case decisions, Sprowls said.
Changes in coaching
The board approved changes to supplemental assignments. Most supplemental assignments remained the same, but the following changes were made:
- Brady Hudson will replace Deanna Thierolf as head high school volleyball coach.
- The second high school volleyball assistant coach position, held by Charlotte Waner, will be cut.
- Kelly Robson will no longer be a co-assistant baseball coach, leaving Jordan Metro as the only assistant.
- Julia Miller will replace Tim Cassidy as vocal music sponsor.
- Topher Rome will replace Billings as co-sponsor for the senior class, Frazer will replace Don Molleker as sophomore class sponsor, and Molleker will replace Schwab as freshman class sponsor.
- The second student council sponsor position, held by Tim Cassidy, was cut.
- Haslouer will replace Billings as Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America sponsor.
- Chase Carlson will replace Darren Hopson as assistant middle school football coach.
- Kris Burkholder will replace Wood as assistant middle school girls’ basketball coach.
- Thierolf will replace Wood as assistant middle school volleyball coach.