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home : government : government May 27, 2016

10/31/2013 1:39:00 PM
Elementary to get PA upgrade

by Nora Bryson

The Cannon Falls School Board heard reports on the district's technology needs and MCA (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment) scores, and approved quotes from Marco for the Elementary PA system and Zippy's for two years of snow removal at their Monday night, October 28 meeting. Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) Foundation's "Form A" resolution was passed.

District Technology Coordinator Rick Lee presented the administration's "1-to-1 Initiative," a 4-year, $425,000 technology upgrade that would put "a device in the hand of every student." Lee reviewed the current 4-server system with its limited wireless access points and the discontinued software compatibility using Windows XP. He said improved infrastructure, both hardwire and wireless, was the first need; estimated to cost about $95,000. He suggested the district look to servers housed outside the district, realizing this will require more bandwidth, but believing it would secure better backup. It would free up "closet space" used to house the units and heavily monitored climate controls necessary to protect and keep them running efficiently. "Virtual Desk-tops" would also rid classrooms of bulky towers and webs of cords. He reminded the board that infrastructure upgrades would affect the district's telephone system and would therefore need to be compatible.

Lee said the biggest decision would be which devices (for a student body of 1200) provided the biggest bang for the buck and whether to lease (putting a burden on the General Fund) or purchase them over the 3-year roll-out (estimated cost of $53,280 the first year, $106,560 the second, and $173,160 the third). The month's expenses showed that 10 iPads have already been purchased for the Pre-School. Staff Development of at least 12 hours per teacher (estimated to cost $27,300) would be the next step to ensure the program's success.

Lastly, the district would need to determine which software would standardize curriculum applications used at both the Elementary and High School levels. More license agreements would need to be purchased. At $50 per staff member, the cost is estimated at $4,500.

Board members questioned whether there were grant funds available, if it could be phased in as a pay-as-you-build, or if a referendum would be required. Lee explained that grants were getting more difficult and were time consuming. He felt the board needed to create a technology fund that would allow for periodic and continual upgrades (similar to the district's bus rotation). As it was deemed a "discussion item only," no action was taken.

Elementary teacher Jaime Winchell reviewed the recently received MCA scores from last Spring's testing, explaining what was tested and how it is scored. It was noted that scores in the 5th grade were always the lowest, not just in Cannon Falls but throughout Minnesota. Everyone was relieved to see the scores have been improving. High School Principal Tim Hodges and Winchell explained how comparing test scores from year-to-year can be tricky because the state is always adjusting the "curve." They also emphasized that the "proficiency percentages" do NOT correspond to that of normal letter grades (ie 80% does not correlate to a "B").

Elementary Principal Derek Bell and Head of Operations and Maintenance Dave Davisson again reviewed the need to replace the 33-year old PA system at the Elementary. Davisson briefly reviewed the four quotes he had received (the highest, starting at $16,000 and rising steeply to $21,000 with several add-on options, and the other three, being IP based with Ethernet, ranged from $11,200 to $13,600). He recommended going with Marco's low quote, noting Marco already had a service contract with the district and their Bogan phone system was the same one used at the High School. He said it would take two weeks for delivery and two days to install, which could be done over Thanksgiving break.

Board member Jerry Reinardy asked if the quote could be amended to use fiber optics (making repairs quicker and less costly) rather than the standard cable listed and about Marco's service reputation with the district. Davisson was unsure of the cost difference in the lines and said that Linda Smith, the previous Technology Coordinator, had done most of the work with Marco.

Board member Rob Siebenaler had three areas of concern: was cheapest best, was the technology what they needed and would it match, and was the price locked in/for how long? He voiced his frustration that the quotes had not been given to the Facilities Committee as agreed at their September 23 meeting.

Board member Curt Beissel concurred, citing that they had just now received Davisson's quotes for which there were no written specs, no discussion of options, nothing to "ensure we get what we want or need...to double check and due diligence...I'm not sure what I'm voting for."

Board member Pat Dougherty said he thought it only made sense to go with a company the district already had a service agreement with-it made integration simpler by reducing the layers of support, the number of contracts, travel time, etc. He insisted that the specs for this type of a project were pretty basic and did not allow for much variation in overall system quality.

Siebenaler and Beissel felt it was important to explore all options and allow for thoughtful review and consideration by a committee.

Somewhat exasperated, Board Chair Bob Brintnall said they "needed to keep moving forward on this" and recounted the delays since the board first got wind of the problem last May.

In the end, they approved Marco's quote with the understanding that the Facilities Committee would meet in the next week "to make changes as they see fit."

Davisson explained how Snow Removal quotes had been re-bid at the 2-inch "trigger point," sidewalks were to have 100% salt unless temperature prohibited, and the bus garage was taken out of the square-footage covered. The two resulting quotes were much closer to last year's snow removal bill of $39,400. Zippy's Construction Services, Inc. received the 2-year contract at a rate of $40,675.45 for both years plus a CPI (Consumer Price Index) adjustment on the 2nd year. Anderson Lawn Care, LLC was the only other bidder.

In a required roll-call vote, the board unanimously approved the MSHSL Foundation's "Form A" resolution allowing the school to receive grant money to pay the activity fees for students receiving Free and Reduced Lunch benefits.

The next meeting will be Monday, November 25 at 6 p.m. NOTE: There will only be one meeting in November due to the observance of Veterans Day. Agenda items include: Approval of the audit and Spring coaches. Scheduled presenter will be Superintendent Beth Giese with a video called "Shift Happens."

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