West Carroll Approves Laptop Use for 1:1 Initiative
By MICHAEL MILLER | For The Prairie Advocate News
THOMSON – The West Carroll School Board approved laptops for use in their soon to be executed 1:1 Initiative, per a recommendation by the Technology Committee and a lengthy presentation by Superintendent Craig Mathers, at the Board’s Wednesday, December 19th meeting in Thomson.
The meeting was attended by Mathers, as well as Board members Mike Highland (President), Tim Atherton, Dawn Rath, Mark Klein and Jerry Anderson, with Bev Kilpatrick and John Brigham absent. Also attending were Principals Pam Delp, Julie Katzenberger, Bob Lamb and Clint Cowman, with Primary/Intermediate School Principal Jeannette Ashby absent.
A public hearing was conducted just prior to the regular meeting, dealing with Truth in Taxation. Mathers took the floor during the hearing, explaining that the 2012 Tax Levy would be a “balloon levy”, which means that more money will be requested by the District than it reasonably expects to receive, due to an unknown EAV (Estimated Assessed Valuation). The levy requested will be just over 108 percent. The amount will be set by school code. He explained the difference between the tax levy and the tax extension thusly; the levy is the amount the district is asking for, and the extension is the amount they will receive.
Field reported he’d moved 13 SMART boards into the Primary School and that after the holidays he estimated the total number of such devices in place across the District will rise to 40. He added that he’s currently working on grants to help fund the 1:1 Initiative which will involve iPads, including a Title 1 Grant for Reading at the Primary, a WCEF grant at the Primary, and assistance to the Middle School iPads in the Library. Mathers congratulated Field for his work.
Mathers pinch hit for Ashby, noting that Big Meadows Nursing Home gave over 500 hats to the Preschool to Fifth Grade students, after donating the same amount of scarves the previous year (See “Cover Story” in the 1/2/13 Prairie Advocate News/www.pacc-news.com).
Highlighting Katzenberger’s Middle School report was the list of the November Students of the Month, which included Matthew Johnson, 7th Grade, Natalie Shaw, 8th Grade, and Ryan Miller, 6th Grade.
Lamb proudly announced that Ben Rogers has the distinction of being West Carroll’s first ever to qualify for All State Music designation in Band.
Sauk Valley To Utilize Classroom
Three representatives from Sauk Valley College, George Mihley (Sauk Valley College President), Alan Pfieffer, and John Mandrell addressed the Board, regarding the potential of a shared classroom between the college and West Carroll. The plan is to utilize the classroom for dual credit courses, as well as potentially offering evening classes at that location. Mandrell noted that he’d like to see “a real college mood” developed with this agreement.
In response, Mathers said he felt this was a “great opportunity” for both institutions, adding that Sauk Valley has “really revamped Room 9 into an extension of Sauk Valley”.
Mihley said that this type of arrangement is becoming more and more popular and that the savings in such an arrangement are significant, with Sauk Valley covering half of the tuition costs for such classes. He also noted that with this arrangement, there are actually students who are graduating High School and college at the same time.
Highland said he was “looking forward to the program” and added that his own son had taken advantage of a similar program which allowed him to be a half semester ahead when he first entered Southern Illinois University.
Technology: iPads Vs. Laptops, And More
Mathers took the floor during the Technology Presentation, the highlight of which was the question of which type of devices should be utilized for the ongoing 1:1 Initiative, laptops or iPads. A number of pluses and minuses were presented. Laptops were advantageous in preparing students for college and business courses, system compatibility, student monitoring, full email features, greater storage capacity, staff familiarity and the utilization of Microsoft Office, which is the industry and business standard. iPads fared somewhat less well, having the advantage in superior battery life and being a good educational device for the younger grades.
Some of the potential savings by going to laptops for learning would include leaving the costs of textbooks behind, as well as reducing or eliminating various paper costs (printing, copying, etc.), the reduced cost of using e-books versus “a $20,000.00 annual library expenditure”, and cutting electricity costs of printers and other devices.
The tipping point for the technology committee and the Board as a whole, however seemed to be the ability of laptops to “produce” documents, while iPads were primarily viewed as being able to “consume information”. Mathers and others commented that in the world of commerce and college in general, producing information was an essential skill that the iPads simply had a difficult time with.
Ultimately, the committee recommended that laptops be utilized for the 1:1 Initiative. At approximately $525.00 apiece, putting a laptop in the hands of 400 students would cost the District around $210,000.00. The first step approved, however, was putting 70 laptop computers in the hands of teachers; the entire Board backed this proposal.
The Board tossed around a number of potential changes to the 2013-2014 curriculum, including the idea of a “zero” period, a “no pass, no play” policy for High School sports, flex scheduling, the required alignment to Common Core standards, the question of whether or not all four District buildings would continue to be needed, the institution of Measured Academic Progress (“M.A.P.”), which Mathers defined as a evaluation instrument to show student growth. Mathers noted that this program would allow for evaluation of both administrative teams and teachers.
Katzenberger said that “increased rigor” in both English Language Arts and Math would be goals for the Middle School.
These and other items will be reviewed and discussed further.
The first reading of the 2013-2014 Curriculum Handbook was up next, with Lamb speaking to some of the prospective changes to that document. These included making all dual credit Advanced Placement courses receive weighted grades, adding a college level writing class, instituting composition classes in the Middle School, and having sophomores take an American Literature class to better foster cross curriculum studies, as it would dovetail with U.S. History courses.
Mathers reminded the Board and the public that Board election petitions were due on December 25th at 5 PM; there will be four positions open in the April election.
The Board formally and unanimously approved the 2012 tax levy, at 108.9 percent of the previous year’s extension.
After a nearly two hour meeting, the Board then went into executive session to discuss employee matters, as well as collective bargaining issues and student discipline cases.