School tech staff aim for flex­i­bil­ity

Lap­tops to be re­freshed; board to send more stu­dents to Space Camp in Alabama

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JAC­QUI ATKIELSKI jatkiel­ski@somd­

St. Mary’s school board mem­bers voted last week to use an ex­ist­ing con­tract to re­fresh their tech­nol­ogy sup­ply due to the un­avail­abil­ity of Dell lap­top mod­els listed in a dif­fer­ent con­tract from early last year. A $45,832 trip to Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., was also ap­proved by board mem­bers.

With an es­ti­mated $414,965.87 price tag, the tech­nol­ogy con­tract was ini­tially ap­proved in Jan­uary 2017 to re­fresh com­put­ers and other tech items at Chop­ti­con, Great Mills and Leonard­town high schools.

Us­ing the Mary­land Ed­u­ca­tion En­ter­prise Con­sor­tium con­tract in­stead will not limit what in­for­ma­tion and tech­nol­ogy staff can pur­chase be­cause model num­bers aren’t listed with the con­tract, Jeff Walker, as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent of

sup­port­ing ser­vices, said in a phone call last week.

Dell and other tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies “change the model num­ber, but the specs and the price don’t change,” he said. Prior con­tracts have listed spe­cific mod­els to be pur­chased, and the change al­lows staff to “buy what we need now, and have flex­i­bil­ity later” to pur­chase more if fund­ing is avail­able, Walker said.

Board mem­ber Jim Davis asked what will hap­pen “to ex­pired lap­tops.” He joked that the out­dated tech­nol­ogy was given to him­self and school board mem­ber Rita Weaver, who called the school board mem­bers’ lap­tops “di­nosaurs.”

Dave Howard, pub­lic schools’ di­rec­tor of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, said school staff work with SMARTCO, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that con­nects with those who can use the out­dated tech. Older sup­plies are also cy­cled down to lower grades, he said.

Howard said the lap­tops have a life­span of five years, “which is per­son­ally tough to get a lap­top to five years.”

With the up­dated con­tract, Dell lap­tops and other com­puter ac­ces­sories can be pur­chased at a 50 to 60 per­cent dis­count, de­pend­ing on the vol­ume of the or­der, Vic­to­ria Mayle, pub­lic schools’ pro­cure­ment co­or­di­na­tor, said at last Wed­nes­day’s board meet­ing. She said the con­tract used by St. Mary’s pub­lic schools of­fers a min­i­mum 11 per- cent dis­count.

Walker said if fund­ing be­comes avail­able later this year, more tech­nol­ogy can be pur­chased for three of the four mid­dle schools.

Howard said he didn’t want to “put a cap” on the amount in the agenda item or the up­dated con­tract be­cause grants or other fund­ing streams could be avail­able later.

All full-time teach­ers have a school-is­sued lap­top and ac­cess to a mi­cro-com­puter in the class­room so stu­dents can in­ter­act with the smart boards and other in­ter­ac­tive tech­nol­ogy, Howard said in a phone call Fri­day.

By hav­ing the mi­cro-lap­top avail­able in the class­room, “stu­dents don’t have ac­cess to grades” and other sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion present on the teacher’s main lap­top, he con­tin­ued.

He said Esperanza, Leonard­town and Mar­garet Brent mid­dle schools are planned to be the next schools to re­ceive up­dated lap­tops, to­tal­ing to about 1,000 lap­tops to be pur­chased. He said el­e­men­tary school stu­dents do have ac­cess to iPads and mi­cro-com­put­ers. The tech­nol­ogy “is there as a tool” in those class­rooms, he said.

School board mem­bers also ap­proved in their con­sent agenda a $45,832 trip to Space Camp for 48 Spring Ridge Mid­dle School STEM academy sixth-graders. Sched­uled for Jan. 14 through Jan. 19, 2018, stu­dents will “en­gage in lec­tures and hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties that delve into the his­tory of space flight and rock­etry,” the agenda states.

Stu­dents will com­plete a Space Mis­sion, a Mars Mis­sion as well as con­duct ex­per­i­ments, ex­pe­ri­ence as­tro­naut sim­u­la­tors and con­struct rock­ets. Two Spring Ridge staff mem­bers will chap­er­one the 48 stu­dents, along with staff from the Space Camp in Alabama.



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