For the third consecutive year, the USD 443 Board of Education voted to not increase the mill levy as they passed the 2013-2014 budget. The decision, which was made at the Aug. 12 meeting, was partially based on valuation increases as reported by the county clerk, as well as continued student enrollment growth.
“I’m glad we were the only taxing entity out of the four that didn’t raise it last year,” Vice President Brian Winter said.
President Lisa Killion and board member Ryan Ausmus both spoke up in agreement with Winter and with their support for not increasing the mill. The budget was passed with a 5-0 vote and no public comment. Board member Jeff Hiers was absent.
The state set the base funding rate to $3,838 per full-time equivalent (FTE) pupil and the general fund budget is based on a projected enrollment of 6,268 FTE pupil.
“If we were fully funded by the state, we could drop the LOB (local option budget) by 11 mills,” William Hammond, Executive Director of Business and Operations said.
In other business, the board approved the purchase of 400 student iPads, 500 teacher iPads and charging/sync stations for Ross Elementary as they prepare to pilot the next phase of the iPad Initiative, beginning in September.
“We are upgrading teacher iPads in anticipation that the current teacher iPads would be used for kindergarten and first grade and save the district 1100 new purchases,” Superintendent Alan Cunningham said. “Funding has been identified as unencumbered cash reserves from the end of the 2012-2013 year.”
The board is holding a work session on Aug. 26 to examine, in greater detail, the implementation options for other buildings around the district.
“I wanted to publicly thank the staff and administration at Ross for being the first to take this step,” Cunningham said.
He said the total cost for the iPad Initiative is $3.378 million, including cases, network, syncing stations, etc. However, textbooks are typically $60-65 each and students have five textbooks each that could potentially be replaced by the iPads. In addition, the iPads will replace student computer labs in the district.
“That covers everything we foresee the iPad Initiative costing and that total amount will cover us for the next three years,” Cunningham added. “[Implementing the iPad Initiative]offers so much more promise than just reading a textbook.”
Ausmus asked if the district planned to have iPads in place in the entire district at the end of the pilot program at Ross.
“That was the initial plan but we’ve had some people step forward saying they are ready to go and don’t want to wait until January,” Cunningham said. “We do have the option of phasing some in monthly. The advantage to that is if you have some reluctant staff, it allows them to kind of stand back and watch and see people in their building implementing them successfully.”
Page 2 of 2 - Killion asked if the district could provide the board with information showing that iPads are beneficial to students and said she’d heard some concerns about inappropriate ads on some of the apps. Cunningham said none of the pilot teachers had encountered any of that but would provide the information she requested.
“That’s why it’s really important that we, as educators, train our children on the idea of digital citizenship,” Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Judy Beedles-Miller said.
Cunningham agreed and said the district would do its best to filter inappropriate content and currently has a state-of-the-art filter in place. Board member Traci Rankin asked if the plan was to make more up-to-date iPads available as they are released. Cunningham said the current price decreases $100 when a new one comes out and the expected life span is three years. The current plan is to have the trade-in allowance pay the first year’s payment on the next three year’s cycle of iPads. More information is on the agenda for the Aug. 26 meeting.
Ross Elementary School Principal Amy Loder said most of the teachers are receiving basic information via iTunes U, as well as from pilot teachers who have shared activities using Book Creator and IMovie. She said she plans on sharing ideas for using the iPad for research or other activities in the classroom at faculty meetings.
“I think we’ll see wonderful project-based learning that can take place K-5,” she said. “Also, I want to implement some things for our parents to make them more aware of really good educational things their kids can do at home and concerning digital citizenship.”
Loder said there are resources available on Google Docs so even the most reluctant teachers have links at their fingertips that will help them integrate the tool into the curriculum.
“The teachers are currently creating course content that meets the needs of our students,” Cunningham added.
The board’s next meeting is a work session scheduled for Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. in the Austen Board Room, 1000 N. Second Avenue.