East Penn Press

Friday, September 20, 2019

EAST PENN SCHOOL DISTRICT

Thursday, August 30, 2018 by ED COURRIER Special to The Press in Local News

Board gets connected to tech plan updates

The East Penn School Board was given an update on the district’s technology plan at the Aug. 27 meeting. Leading the tech team’s presentation was Superintendent of Schools Kristen Campbell, Technology Integration Specialist Heather Moser, Eyer Middle School Assistant Principal Erin Murphy, Business Administrator Robert Saul and Director of Technology Michael Mohn.

Campbell kicked it off with, “EPSD Connects really has teaching and learning as its focus.” Each then took turns telling how the district plans to “equip and empower our teachers and students with the best technology available today,” as stated in East Penn’s mission statement.

Moser explained how preparing and inspiring the teaching staff is a critical component in the plan. She described this was to be accomplished through partnerships with tech experts, such as Tom Murray, author of “Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today” and keynote speaker at the district’s recent teacher orientation event. Professional instruction in-house and online, along with networking opportunities through the Eastern PA EduSummit and other organizations will be utilized to keep educators educated and engaged.

In describing how technology has enhanced learning in kindergarten, Moser said, “An old school, unplugged activity might be kids tracing over letters with pencils and paper. Once iPads were introduced, teachers used an app called “Wet-Try-Dry” where kids now use their finger on the iPad to trace the letters.” She said the app made it easier for some to work ahead as the app provided immediate feedback for the students among other benefits.

Saul presented the actual costs of Phase 1 and calculated expenses for the additional phases of the technology plan. He reported Phase 1 was $175,591 under budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

He added Phase 2 for the 2018-2019 fiscal year is currently $3,224 under the budgeted cost. The list of expenses includes iPad lease (2017-2018 for grades kindergarten through third), Chromebooks for grades six, nine and 10, power and charging stations, iPads for enrollment increases and bulk transport cases.

Saul estimated Phase 3 for the 2019-2020 fiscal year with iPad leases, as well as distributing Chromebooks for grades six, nine and 12 would be $1 million.

Sustaining the 1:1 device program for the 2020-2021 fiscal year and beyond is anticipated to cost $760,000 according to Saul.

Murphy announced the creation of a EPSD Connects website which can be found under the “resources” tab on the district’s home page at eastpennsd.org. She said parents and students can access information on the program, as well as tutorials. Social media will also be utilized to reach out to parents and the community according to Murphy.

Mohn fielded questions from the board regarding device tracking and network security. Data from the monitored devices would assist the tech department in reporting use and maintenance costs.

Director Alisa Bowman requested a plan be developed to accommodate students of families that may have connectivity issues.

A resolution proposed by Director Ziad Munson regarding video recordings of board meetings was unanimously approved after much discussion over the wording of it. The resolution cited that, “transparency in deliberation and decision-making is a fundamental pillar of good governance,” adding, “public confidence in, and support for, public education increases when the public has access to the greatest possible amount of information about the schools.”

Director Charles Ballard said he was “annoyed” by the use of the word “transparency,” in the original motion as a reason for it. Ballard complained it, “implied that we haven’t been [transparent] because we haven’t been recording.” He said instead of the district being responsible for the recording, file storage, and possible legal issues, other options should be explored.

The final part of the motion was amended to read, “Be it resolved that the East Penn School District administration develop options to allow for the remote access to school board meetings.”

Requests to address the board were granted to Emmaus resident Lynn Donches and Emmaus business owner Jim Hess who both supported the video recording of meetings. Hess, who owns Let’s Play Books!, said as a small business owner, it was difficult for him to attend meetings on a regular basis. He also opined video recording the meetings, “will raise public trust and tamp down public discord.”

Campbell announced an exciting start of classes for East Penn students earlier in the day with 7,982 students returning to school during her district update. She also mentioned 42 professional staff members are new to East Penn and were treated to a “career-like fair format,” where the new hires could circulate around different tables for the meet-and-greet.

She also informed the board the Pennsylvania Bureau of Special Education will be auditing the district this fall as part of their regular six year review to monitor compliance. “We are just thrilled that we are to be audited this year,” quipped the superintendent. The bureau is seeking public opinions on the services East Penn provides. An optional survey for parents and students (who are over the age of 14) will be available soon on the district’s website. The survey may be filled out anonymously.

Campbell mentioned that around 20 Emmaus High School students volunteered to work under the direction of Mohn to provide technical support for their fellow students who need help with their Chromebooks.

In personnel matters, the directors accepted the appointment of Erin Murphy for a new position as supervisor of curriculum for humanities, effective Sept. 24. Each director personally congratulated Murphy on her promotion.

Approved new hires or transfers include second grade teacher Melanie Carwell for Lincoln Elementary School, Matthew Schmoyer as a science teacher for grade eight at Eyer Middle School and social studies teacher Tyler Nolan for EHS, all effective Aug. 20.

Emily Bonney was also approved by the directors to replace Ellen Malone who recently retired as a guidance counselor at EHS.

The board conducted a third reading and adoption of board policy updates on mostly transportation policies.

There was an executive session scheduled prior to the public meeting at 7 p.m. on security, negotiation and personnel.

The East Penn Board of School Directors meet 7:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday of each month, with only one meeting in July. The next meeting will be held Sept. 10. in the board room of the administration building.