Washington Evening Journal
http://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/942319

Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 18, 2014

Moving ahead to make history

By Brooks Taylor | Dec 28, 2012
Neil Reichenbach, left, Wayland, received a commendation certificate from the Iowa Department of Education for his expertise in avoiding a serious accident in October. Reichenbach was driving a WACO School Bus, transporting the football team to a playoff game, when some particle board flew into the bus’s windshield from a pickup the bus was following. Although some of the debris hit both Reichenbach and WACO football coach Chad Edeker, Reichenbach did not lose control of the bus and kept it upright on the road before stopping the bus. Making the presentation to Reichenbach is WACO School Board President Tim Graber.

WAYLAND — “This is a day we have been waiting for sometime,” WACO School Board President Tim Graber announced Dec. 17.
That’s because approval of the district’s innovative calendar (4 + 1 school week) headed the agenda.
Although the board unanimously approved the calendar without much discussion, Graber said the calendar the board is approving will not be the final version.
“This is not set in stone. There will be some tweaks,” Graber said.
Tom Ferguson, high school language arts teacher and chair of the innovative calendar committee, agreed. “We are going to tweak the plus one day (Friday) to meet the needs of students.”
Graber called the vote to approve the calendar “probably the most important vote in the history of the district. We are changing education, and I am excited about it.”
The 1:1 initiative (one computer per student), however, attracted the most discussion during the meeting.
After considerable discussion, the board tabled the matter until the January meeting. Although the board spoke favorably of implementing the initiative, cost was the stumbling block.
“Money has to be spent for buses, that is my only concern,” remarked board member Todd Meyer.
“We have been pretty thrifty with money,” added Graber. “I love the idea, I think it is a great idea.”
The proposal first surfaced during a Dec. 1 board work session during which a rough draft of the innovative calendar was presented. At that time, innovative calendar committee members told the board that several patrons told them that they may move their children from the district if the initiative is not approved.
“One of the reasons we are making this proposal is that during the 4 + 1 meetings, parents asked us multiple times when we are doing the 1:1,” Ferguson said. “We want to meet the needs of students in the 21st Century.”
Last night’s proposal included purchasing Samsung Chromebooks for all students in grades 9-11 during the 2012-13 school year and expanding the program by one class per year until 2015-16 when the entire secondary building (grades 7-12) would have computers for
each student.
The initial investment would be just over $40,000, according to the proposal. The district would purchase 110 Chromebooks for students in grades 9-11 and secondary certified staff at a cost of $249 each (total $27,390). In addition, 15 Chromebooks with a 3G network would be purchased for students without the internet at home. Those Chromebooks would cost $449 each. A management and support contract would run $3,750 and 125 protective cases would be purchased for a $2,500, bringing the total cost to $40,375.
Ferguson, in the proposal, listed five immediate benefits of the 1:1 initiative.
• Allows for greater implementation of technology into every classroom.
• Potential for decrease in paper/copier usage since all assignments/tests/etc. could be delivered, turned in and checked electronically, resulting in savings to the district.
• Online textbooks with enhancements could be used for all areas at a savings of 50-70 percent versus traditional paper version textbooks.
• Greater use of instruction time due to students not having to leave because they forgot materials.
• Students would be able to access assignments, notes and testbooks at home on Chromebooks even if hard copy materials were “forgotten” at school, resulting in greater independent work completion.
Andrea McBeth, a math instructor at the school and member of the innovative calendar committee, said that textbooks for many subject areas, are now online. “In the realm of math and science, there are so many free textbooks out there. Some (textbooks) in history are free, too. There are tons of free stuff out there.”
Ferguson said the initiative was discussed at two faculty in-service meetings and has enthusiastic support from staff. “We presented it at two in-services. The staff thought it was great, so I feel comfortable in saying it isn’t just for us.”
The district is going to try to find some grant money to purchase the computers. In the past, WACO has applied for a Riverboat (gambling revenue) grant for the project, but the funds requested in the application were considerably higher than the money needed for Chromebooks.
Prior to the start of the meeting, board members had a moment of silence for the victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
Brandt Snakenberg and Todd Werner, school principals, said the district would be reviewing its policies regarding outside threats.
“We were going to review and revise policies anyway,” Snakenberg said. “We had talked about it a few weeks ago.”
“All schools need to implement procedures and find out what works best for them,” added Werner.
In other agenda items, the board:
• Approved a request for $66,878 in modified allowable growth funds from the School Budget Review Committee. The request is not for actual money but spending authority and made because of an increase in open-enrolled students from the district.
• Accepted the resignations of Michelle Wade, varsity softball coach, Jennifer Miller, elementary cook, and Ferguson, varsity volleyball coach. Ferguson, however, is asking for a one-year sabbatical and will return to coach volleyball during the 2014 season.
• Approved a contract for Cathy Lee, secondary associate.
WACO board members meet again in regular session Monday, Jan. 21, at 6:30 p.m. at the high school.


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