HMS students to be issued wireless notebook computers

Hillsboro Middle School students can look forward to using wireless notebook computers to enhance their classroom learning this fall.

After technology director Charles Jones fielded questions regarding specifications, costs, security and other issues, Unified School District 410 Board of Education unanimously approved the purchase of 25 notebook computers and a mobile cart for $35,299 from Gateway Computers.

“I feel it’s a good start to see how laptops will work for us and what we might do with them,” said Superintendent Gordon Mohn about the mobile notebook computers.

The technological initiative will involve at least 15 access points to create a wireless working environment at HMS.

The computers will be available for HMS classroom use in the mornings, Mohn said, and then connected to the computer lab to teach computer classes in the afternoons.

Mohn said teachers report that students who use notebook computers in the classroom are more motivated and attentive to their tasks.

“Teachers and staff are innovative and willing to take risks,” said Mohn about the decision to start using notebook computers in the middle school.

Studies show that incorporating technology in the classroom shifts the role of the teacher from “being a dispenser of knowledge to a facilitator or guide to information,” Mohn said.

The district will purchase the computers using a three-year municipal lease-purchase agreement with Central National Bank. Annual payments will be $13,135 for three years, and the district has the option to buy them for $1 after three years.

Purchasing the notebooks will complement the “Teach to the Future Program” begun this summer. This program involves 10 USD 410 teachers who are being trained to effectively use notebook computers in the classroom.

Three HMS teachers, Steph Sinclair, Lisa Hoffman and Tonya Wienck, will complete the training.

In his building report, Evan Yoder, principal for Hillsboro Elementary School, said, “Teachers are moving into their rooms and the schedule is being fine-tuned.”

HMS principal Corey Burton distributed a list of activities completed by the site council during the past year.

“They were a great sounding board as I moved through my first year (as principal),” Burton said about the site council, headed by Shelley Rooker, president.

Hillsboro High School principal Dale Honeck said Rod Hamm will bring a report about the HHS site council at July’s board meeting.

Honeck also reported a proposed change in the handbook. To participate in after-school or evening activities, students must be at school by 10 a.m. that day. The current policy is to attend a half day.

“A few people have abused (the policy),” Honeck said.

Two middle school teachers are moving to the high school, Honeck said, but a special education position still needs to be filled.

Following more than an hour in executive session to discuss personnel issues, the board voted to approve supplemental contracts to Sharon Loewen and Michele Melton as sophomore class sponsors, Dustin Dalke as junior class sponsor and Christy Wulf as HMS yearbook sponsor.

The board approved extending classified contracts with the following changes-hourly wage increase of 3 percent and defined benefit decreased from $315 to $284 per month effective Oct. 1.

No changes were made for non-contracted classified personnel, whose rate would remain the same as in 2003-04.

The board renewed contracts for Jerry Hinerman and Keith Goosen, non-administrative members of the leadership team, and approved salaries and benefits for administrators Yoder, Burton, Honeck, Max Heinrichs and Mohn. All will receive a 3 percent salary increase over 2003-04 and a defined benefit of $625 effective Oct. 1.

Business manager Hinerman announced that enrollment will be Aug. 9-10.

In other business, the board

n accepted Karen Wiens’ resignation, effective at the end of the 2003-04 school year. She has driven bus for USD 410 for 38 years.

n received information about the option to refinance the general obligation bonds for the middle school scheduled to mature in December 2010.

The district currently has about $1.13 million in debt remaining. Refinancing could save the district $46,000, based on current rates. The earliest date to refinance is Sept. 2, and plans are to pursue this opportunity if the rates will result in anticipated savings.

n heard about various scenarios for making up the deficit for the upcoming year, ranging from no increase in the mill levy to a possible full 25 percent use of the local option budget-a four-mill capital outlay assessment that would generate nearly $115,500.

n received a report from Mohn regarding summer maintenance projects to secure space for yearbook class and close off storage space in the high school.

Mohn said the board will need to determine the district’s newspaper for legal publications. In the past, the Hillsboro Star Journal has served in that role.

Mohn said the board has the option to choose the Free Press Extra. Both newspapers are subscription publications.

Although the Extra’s circulation is less than the Star Journal, Mohn said legal notices would also be printed in the Hillsboro Free Press, which is distributed to all residential addresses in the district. The board will make its decision at next month’s meeting.

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