USD 410 to join lawsuit for more state funding

Unified School District 410 Board of Education decided at its Oct. 12 meeting to align with other school districts statewide calling for the Kansas Legislature to fulfill its responsibility to suitably fund kindergarten-through-grade 12 education in Kansas.

The board voted 7-0 to join Schools for Fair Funding, an advocacy group calling for adequate and equitable funding for Kansas schools.

USD 410 Superintendent Steve Noble told the board the group intends to seek litigation against the state to require it to fund education ?according to the law.?

In January 2005, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in Montoy v. State that the Legislature had violated the law in its formula to determine funding for school districts. That decision required the Legislature to increase funding levels for Kansas schools, according to the court?s written opinion available at kscourts.org.

Other Marion County districts planned to have the issue their board meeing agendas, Nobel said.

Schools for Fair Funding will assess districts $2 per student annually, which amounts to about $1,200 for USD 410, Noble said.

Board member Rod Koons said he anticipated some taxpayers may question the school district?s decision to use taxpayer money to join the suit because of its tight budget.

Noble asked the board if it wanted to postpone a vote until next month?s meeting.

Board President Eddie Webber said, ?I?m all for deciding now.?

Following the vote, USD 410 joins other schools, including Arkansas City, Augusta, Derby, Dodge City, El Dorado, Emporia, Fort Scott, Garden City, Great Bend, Hays, Hutchinson, Independence, Leavenworth, Liberal, Manhattan, Newton, Salina and Winfield, according to the Salina Journal.

Laptop update

Technology directory Jason Henry reported on the status of the 1-1 laptop program at Hillsboro High School, which the district implemented at the start of school this year.

?For the most part it?s very, very successful,? Henry said about the program. But with 200 wireless commuters accessing the network, students are experiencing connection problems and slow speeds on the Internet. When students aren?t connected to the network, they don?t have access to files on the server.

?You can?t test 200 laptops until you have 200 computers,? Henry said about the current network system. ?There?s no way to plan for it until it?s there.?

Connection problems also are affecting the way teachers teach, he said, because they can?t fully use the classroom management software.

Henry anticipates similar problems down the road when middle and elementary school students are using 1-1 laptops.

?If we?re going to do this, I want to do it right,? he said.

The solution he?s looking at, he said, is a controller-based wireless system that can be centrally managed with increased security and faster speed. That system also could handle future usage increases and can be implemented in stages, Henry said.

?The biggest chunk (of the cost) is the controller,? he said, adding that one controller will manage wireless access for all district buildings, including the central office.

Based on his research, costs range between $20,000 and $60,000, depending on the brand purchased, Henry said, which would cover equipment and software only for the high school.

Noble said had looked at money budgeted for computer equipment, and the district would probably have to consider using money from the capital outlay budget.

Although Noble did not ask the board to take action at the meeting, board member Gary Andrews said the issue warranted a special meeting once the cost and specs are known.

?If you get bids, just call a meeting and jump on it,? Andrews aid. ?I don?t think we ought to wait 30 days.?

Other board members seemed to agree with the importance of acting promptly.

?We have one chance to do it right,? Koons said about the district?s technology infrastructure.

Technology proposal

In another technology-related topic, Lee Miller of Kansas Broadband Internet Inc. presented a potential 30-year agreement between his company and Hillsboro and Herington school districts to lease broadband spectrum owned by the districts.

The Federal Communications Commission requires that the spectrum be used or leased by 2011. The districts cannot sell the spectrum, but they can lease it.

Under the lease, KBI could deliver broadband Internet to residents and businesses in the area. The lease would allow KBI to partner and share revenues with school districts, deliver additional bandwidth and provide discounted services.

Noble said he and Miller have met several times to discuss and negotiate terms of the contract. Currently among the terms are KBI paying each district $25,000 in cash upon FCC approval of the lease, 1.5 percent of percentage of the gross revenue generated and free wireless access by students enrolled in the 1-1- laptop program.

Besides the revenue, one plus for the district, Noble said, is broadband Internet service available to rural students whose families now only have the option of dial-up access. Others have no Internet access in their homes.

?I want every kid to have (Internet) access at home,? Noble said.

After Miller?s presentation, the board discussed various implications for signing the lease, but no decision was made.

Other business

In other business, the board:

n recognized Jane Long with a plaque for her 161⁄2 years with the district.

?We?re going to miss a lot of Hillsboro, that?s for sure,? said husband Carl, who also attended the meeting. The Longs plans plan to move to Bella Vista, Ark.

n appointed Gary Andrew to serve on the newly formed district technology committee. Noble said the committee will address state regulations and long-term goals.

Other committee members will include Noble, teachers representing all buildings, tech director, curriculum director, business manager, two HHS students and a patron.

n approved the 2009-10 master contract.

n approved an extended bus driving contract for Rhonda Wiens to three-fourth hour per day to run a pre-school route, approved a contract for Jill Hein to serve as GAP sponsor for 2009-10, reduced the driving contract for Sheila Nuss from five hours to four hours.

n approved changes in the lease agreement between Floyd Nickel and the city of Hillsboro to store its mulch pile, which Tabor College requested be moved from property owned by the college and the district at the southeast corner of the athletic complex.

n discussed capital outlay resolution regarding the district?s authority to establish a mill levy for the capital outlay fund, currently at 8 mills.

n discussed instruments to use for the superintendent?s evaluation. The board agreed to use the board goal sheet for intermittent evaluations in October, January and March, and the district?s performance evaluation for superintendent of schools as the summative evaluation.

n met in executive sessions to discuss acquisition of property and evaluation of the superintendent. No action was taken.

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