By Jann Wiswall
School Technology Director Shawne Hunt described plans for several new technology-related initiatives under way for the Ellicottville School District at the school board meeting on April 23. Hunt explained that the plans, which include purchase of 115 Dell Netbooks for students, were mandated by the state in order to facilitate administration of new state tests. The plans also call for replacement of all computers for teachers.
Hunt noted that the school’s existing computers are five years old, making them essentially obsolete. The new Netbooks will be used in classrooms with existing monitors, mice and keyboards, but they also will be able to be set up in the gym and other locations for testing purposes. Serendipitously, she added, Dell has just informed her that the Netbook model Dell originally was going to provide has been discontinued; as a result, the school will be receiving a newer, more powerful model with more storage and other features at the same price as the discontinued model.
Superintendent Mark Ward explained that the computers, at a cost of $144,000, will be purchased through an Installment Purchase Agreement and will be paid for over five years. The state will reimburse the district for a percentage of that cost through state aid. In addition, Ward said the school has invested another $244,000 — part of which is also state aidable — for new routers, wiring and installation of a fully wireless environment throughout the school.
Hunt said the wireless environment is proving extremely useful for teachers, administrators and students, and when the new Netbooks are available, everyone will be able to work and save their documents to the central server from anywhere in the building.
“We’re excited about these upgrades,” said Hunt.
Superintendent’s Report: Superintendent Ward informed the board that the state is auditing the school’s special education program. The audit, which is the most comprehensive review the state conducts, involves in-person interviews with selected students, their families and all teachers involved with those students. It also includes reviews of Individualized Education Program folders and in-class observation.
Elementary School Principal Connie Poulin explained that the review is intended to compare student performance to established state standards. The review, while time-consuming, “will validate what we’re doing well,” and shed light on how we can do some things better, she said. Ward agreed, stating that “under Poulin’s leadership, we’re in good stead.”
Ward reported that ECS’ consultants and architects on the Capital Improvement Project have met with members of the Physical Education and Music Departments. Board member Carl Calarco, who attended the meetings, said that the department staffs clearly had given the project a lot of thought and were well prepared to explain their needs.
Next, Ward informed the board that as of June 30 one English teacher position will be eliminated. “No one is losing their job,” he said. One teacher is retiring in October and the position will be replaced with a district reading specialist position.
On another subject, Ward said that ECS is exploring avenues to expand anti-bullying programs to grades 7-9. Currently, character education is available for grades 5-6, but Ward feels that more programming is needed for the older grades since bullying is more prevalent in those age groups.
“Bullying is an issue and there isn’t any place that it doesn’t exist,” he said. “We need to look at what more we can do.”
Next, Ward said that he has spoken with three 11th grade girls who were members of this year’s State Championship volleyball team about potentially consolidating the Ellicottville team with Cattaraugus/Little Valley next year. A number of factors prompted this discussion, Ward said. First, despite this year’s win, the girls’ volleyball program at Ellicottville historically has had relatively low interest and some years it has been difficult to field modified, junior varsity and/or varsity teams. Signups for next year remain low except among rising 8th graders. In addition, Coach Kelly Unverdorben will not be returning next year.
Ward said the coach at Catt/LV reached out to him to discuss the idea. More and more school districts are consolidating teams in order to stay competitive, Ward explained. For better or worse, “it’s the wave of the future,” he said. Ultimately, however, he asked the rising senior team members for their thoughts on the subject. He expects to hear their opinion by the end of the week.
Finally, Ward said that the proposed 2013-14 budget will be mailed to district residents on May 15 to allow residents to review the document before the public vote on May 21.
Principals’ Reports: Both Elementary School Principal Connie Poulin and Middle/High School Principal Bob Miller reported that this is a very busy time for everyone in school considering the upcoming state-mandated tests and Regents exams, teacher reviews, teacher observation conferences, sports, field trips and numerous other activities. Poulin noted that several teachers will be out of school to score exams for other schools beginning April 25. Scheduling substitute teachers for those days has been a challenge, but her staff has done an excellent job of covering those absences. Miller reported that the first round of class scheduling for middle and high school students next year has been completed. His staff will continue to work through scheduling conflicts over the next several weeks.
School Board Election Scheduled for May 21
Four Candidates Running for Three Seats
The election for three ECS school board members is scheduled for May 21. Two five-year (2013-2018) positions are open to replace two members whose terms expire June 30, 2013. There also is a four-year (2013-2017) position open to complete the remainder of Aimee Kilby’s term, which she resigned in order to become ECS district treasurer.
ECS district residents Melissa Foster, William Murphy, Roger Spell and Leonard Zlockie are running.
The two candidates with the highest number of votes will win the five-year board positions. The candidate with the third-highest number of votes will complete Kilby’s term.