The Marion-Florence USD 408 Board of Education approved an upgrade to the district’s phone system Monday, taking advantage of advanced technology and realizing significant cost benefits at the same time.
Superintendent Lee Leiker presented a proposal to change from the current landline configuration to an Internet-based voice-over IP system utilizing the network provided through the Technology Excellence in Education Network (TEEN) collaborative.
“Voice-over IP was a relatively new technology that has gotten a lot better,” Leiker said. “If the entire TEEN network was on voice-over IP, all the calls between those five districts would be local calls. Currently all those calls are long-distance calls, so there are automatic savings.”
USD 408 also benefits from having phones that are already compatible with voice-over IP, except at the district office, where phones would have to be upgraded, Leiker said.
“Since all the phone are compatible, it’s far less expensive for our district than what I originally thought. If you remember about three years ago, I looked into this and it was about $50,000,” Leiker said. “For about $8,700, that would upgrade all of our phones in the district to a voice-over IP system. This building would be $4,600, so the total cost would be a little over $13,000.”
Board member Sarah Cope asked Leiker what other TEEN schools were considering the voice-over IP system.
“Herington is already on this system. Centre, I think, is planning to go to this system,” Leiker said.
“Hillsboro I don’t believe will go to the system right now. I don’t know about Peabody,” Leiker concluded.
“Is this technology that didn’t relate well with 911?” board member Jeremiah Lange asked.
“I don’t know what it did in the past, but that was one of the questions we asked, and they said it will work just like it currently does,” Leiker said.
The board unanimously approved the recommendation.
Marion Middle School Principal Missy Stubenhofer provided an overview of the state assessment process, a complicated mix of reading, math, science, history and government, and writing exams administered to select grade levels and students. The process includes two alternative assessment procedures for students receiving special education services.
“Whoever is in charge of testing had better be good at keeping track of data, because it’s a nightmare. I don’t know how big schools do it,” Stubenhofer said. “You determine at what point you think a kid is going to be ready to take the reading assessment or math assessment, based on whatever criteria you as a school want to set up.”
Except for writing, the assessments are multiple-choice tests, a practice which both Stubehofer and board member Keith Collett questioned.
“We have become overly-obsessed with multiple choice tests. The state wants you give a practice test every quarter,” Stubenhofer said. “If you have to practice that much for it, that’s what classroom is supposed to be for.”
Collett used personal examples to illustrate his contention that multiple-choice testing uses isolated skills that are not utilized in everyday life.
“As a child I was really good at taking multiple choice tests, and unfortunately it’s a talent I haven’t been able to use since I took the LSAT at the age of 25,” Collett said. “In reality, taking multiple choice tests is not a skill our students will need after they graduate from college.”
Collett also suggested multiple-choice tests may not provide an accurate measurement of student knowledge.
“As a senior in high school I took the ACT and I scored fairly high on math. I knew nothing of mathematics, I still know nothing of mathematics,” Collett said.
“Tests are not an indicator of what children know – they are an indicator of how well children take tests,” Collett concluded.
Following a 30-minute executive session to discuss personnel and negotiations, the board took the following actions:
- Extended Leiker’s contract for one year. Leiker is in the first year of a three-year contract, and the one-year extension will be applied at the end of the current year.
- Hired Lori McLinden as middle school/high school library aide at a rate of $10 per hour.
- Appointed Chris Sprowls and Duane Kirkpatrick as negotiators for contract talks with the Marion-Florence Teachers Association.