Ray-Pec approves fiber upgrade, Chromebooks

Special to the Democrat MissourianApril 26, 2013 

At the regular Raymore-Peculiar School Board monthly meeting April 18, board of education members confirmed their ongoing commitment to support technology in education, voting to boost fiber-optic connectivity across the district with a substantial IT investment as well as the purchase of 120 Chromebooks for the gifted program.

Based on a recommendation by administration and justification presented at the meeting by Arla Monroe, director of technology, the school board approved a bid of $175,081 from Unite Private Networks, LLC to install single-mode fiber-optic cable, which will upgrade all facilities in the district to 10-gigabyte fiber connectivity and greatly enhance the capability to transmit information faster. In addition to this initial investment, the agreement involves paying an annual lease fee to the firm of $84,054 for 10 years, beginning July 1.

Next, the board heard details from Monroe regarding a recommendation to purchase 120 Samsung Chromebooks for the academic services department. The board voted unanimously in favor of accepting the bid from Best Buy for $29,880. The district will use these devices in a pilot program for testing and future classroom work that aligns with the Smarter Balance initiative, which is part of the Common Core Standards. When Board Member Ruth Johnson asked how this purchase would fit into the district's long-range technology plan, Monroe explained that these devices, which are larger than a mini computer but not as large as a laptop, will be a good starting point for the Smarter Balance testing pilot due to their flexibility and inexpensive price point. She also clarified the Chromebooks would be funded through the academic services department budget.

In other action items, the board approved an agreement with Belton Regional Medical Center for athletic trainer services for the 2013-14 school year at a cost of $2,600 per month for 10 months. An athletic trainer employed by the hospital will work at specified Ray-Pec practices and events. These services will be in addition to those already provided by Dan Schwarz, an athletic trainer employed by the school district.

In addition to the action items, the board heard a program review presentation from Karen Hurst, director of K-6 curriculum and assessment, and Kathy Payne, LEAP teacher for elementary gifted students, on the LEAP program, an intervention program for students who have been identified as gifted learners. The pair shared information on how the screening and testing process has been revamped to identify gifted students and explained the increase of extra-curricular educational events and competitions, such as performing poetry at a coffee house as a culmination to a poetry unit, quiz bowl, debate/forensics, and think tank simulation activities, among others. They also explained how technology has been integrated into the gifted program.

"We have embraced technology, including iPads to create iMovies and access online resources," Payne said. "We are also incorporating problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, exploratory time, and choices of study."

In addition to sharing the evaluation with board members and reporting that 100 percent of students in the program scored in either the proficient of advance range on the MAP test, the pair offered a summary of future goals, which included: developing the expansion of affective support to LEAP students within the school day and into the high school level; increasing the implementation of 21st century skills that includes technology, critical thinking, creative problem solving, and creativity; and continuing to enhance the identification of gifted students within the population.

Superintendent Jeff Kyle gave the board an update on the School Road improvement project. Cass County Commission is planning improvements to School Road from Hubach Hill Road south to the campus. According to Kyle, the county is seeking financial participation from Peculiar and Raymore; however, the project is contingent upon cooperation and financial support from the two cities. Because the board has not voted to endorse or recommend the planned project, Kyle, who recently spoke at a public hearing on the subject, clarified that he was simply speaking in favor of the improvements, not how they would be funded.

"The road has needed to be done for a long time – it is not a good course for our students, and it is rapidly deteriorating," he said. "The funding is not my concern. I am just encouraging them to work together to find a way to fund it. I just want the road improved."

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