Gilpin Board of Education Business

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School board discusses updating broadband technology, other issues

By Patty Unruh

The Gilpin County Board of Education met May 6. President Craig Holmes, Brook Ramsey, Charlotte Taylor, Kersten Armstrong, Rusty Hardy, and Superintendent David MacKenzie were present.

During the public participation portion of the meeting, Jenny Halsted addressed the Board regarding the non-renewal of elementary principal Lisa Schell’s contract. Halsted stated she disagreed with that decision, and it was her opinion that Schell had not been given the full administrative support she needed. Halsted believed that losing Schell as principal would be detrimental to the school. On a positive note, Halsted said the school is being led in a great direction and appreciated the Board’s hard work. She was also enthusiastic about the “flipped classroom” model being used by teachers Barb Bedwell and Rachell White and observed that students who need alternative learning methods are succeeding well. Holmes agreed that Schell was a quality person and said the school just needed to go in a different direction after three years of declining test scores.

Panic Button

The Board discussed the WAVE System panic button proposal dated May 1 from SecureTech System in the amount of $9,350, excluding tax. The system includes a control panel with email/texting module, four single button duress alarms, one repeater (if needed), and one session of on-site set-up and training. MacKenzie advised that personnel from SecureTech Systems visited the school last week to check the four locations where panic buttons would be installed. He clarified for the Board that the District would purchase the system’s radio, which is included in the proposed price. The button trips the radio, which then transmits an alarm to the Sheriff’s Office in lieu of calling 911. The District needs to get a frequency to key into the deputies’ radios. The Board approved accepting SecureTech’s contract.

Technology Report

The District has been doing research on updating its broadband Internet service. The school currently uses Eagle Net and is considering either having its service updated through that company or breaking its contract and going with another provider. Board members stated that Eagle Net has been having financial problems and hasn’t let the District know when it can install broadband. The original contract with Eagle Net provided for an installation date of July 1, but it may be October 1 or even later before broadband would be installed.

MacKenzie reported that business manager Terry Scharg checked with the City of Black Hawk about the service they use, which is CenturyLink. Black Hawk has 10 mbps (megabits per second), while the school has 4 mbps access. The school’s technology personnel also advised that part of the current problem is that the school is too far from its DSL connection.

Another company the District is considering is Mountain Broadband, which could provide 50 mbps access. That could be increased to 100 mbps, based on need; for example, if people at school were streaming videos or taking on-line courses. All references provided by Mountain Broadband gave good reports about the company.

Fees with Mountain Broadband would be as follows: $8,045 installation fee and a $1,000 monthly usage fee, for a total of $20,045 for the 2013-2014 school year. Technology expenditures for 2013-2014 would be $41,900, including 17 staff computer notebooks, 28 elementary lab PCs, paging system safety improvements, and other items.

These costs are all separate from a wireless system, which will be finished this year at a cost of about $10,000. Holmes suggested checking on residential satellite servers as well, including Hughes.Net and Dish Network.

Hardy added, “Eagle Net is going down the drain. We need to get a system in place before the start of school next year. This is the number one complaint of students, teachers, and parents.” Holmes agreed that it would be good to make a decision by mid-June.

National School Board Association Membership

The Board discussed membership in the National School Board Association (NSBA). The school board has not been a member of the NSBA for some time; the district dropped the membership because they did not feel they were getting their money’s worth. According to NSBA literature, it is redefining its organization to focus on areas that are more up to date with current issues. A membership costs about $1,000 for the first year, then $1,700 per year after that. Hardy questioned what the NASB does that CASB (Colorado Association of School Boards) doesn’t. Taylor replied that besides supporting lobbying efforts, the biggest benefit to Gilpin’s District would be resources, grant opportunities, and the sharing of ideas. Membership in the NSBA, she said, would provide a wider point of view on educational trends not just in Colorado, but in all 50 states.

New Elementary Principal

A new elementary principal was selected to replace Lisa Schell. The Board approved her contract. Holmes noted that the interview process was positive. Two teachers’ groups and one administrative group came to a unanimous decision to hire her. “We are lucky to have someone with her credentials,” he said, noting that Schell has accepted a principal’s position in another district. The new principal is due to start in July, but cannot disclose her acceptance of the position yet due to contractual obligations with the current school district she’s leaving.

Policies Presented for First Reading

The Board approved nearly 20 policies for first reading with little discussion, including policies on Safe and Drug-Free Schools Advisory Council, Drug-Free Workplace, Homeless Students, Inter-District Choice/Open Enrollment, the Public’s Right to Know/Freedom of Information, Crisis Management, and Community Use of School Facilities, among others. Some of the wording had to be in accordance with state law changes, and the Board decided whether to keep its own policies or to use CASB policies due to language. Some old policies with respect to emergency management plans and safety drills were repealed, due to the fact that provisions included in those policies were now included in the new policy on crisis management.

Superintendent’s Report

MacKenzie met with the Safety Committee to discuss the panic button, the school resource officer for the 2013-2014 school year, having an evacuation drill using the school buses and buses from Black Hawk next fall, and installing posts outside the atrium doors for added security to keep a vehicle from driving through the doors.

MacKenzie and the Board discussed the possibility of adding some additional personnel, including whether to hire someone as an assessment coordinator. MacKenzie proposed to the Board that rather than having someone for that specific position, the principal just work with teachers as a team to do coordination. He did suggest hiring an additional teacher for second grade, as there will be 26 students in that grade. He also said there would be about 66 students in third through fifth grade and proposed that teachers in those grades would each teach one main subject and integrate the other subjects.

Congratulations and Celebrations

The middle school baseball team had half of their games cancelled this season, but is undefeated.

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