June 13, 2012WHITEFIELD — The WMRSD school board voted unanimously to spend up to $60,000 from this year's surplus monies to fill technology needs, once SAU #36 Interim Superintendent Dr. Harry Fensom explained why this would be a good idea.
About $522,000 in unexpended funds are expected to be on hand and not spent when the 2011-2012 fiscal year ends on June 30.
The first $240,000 will be used to fund the trust funds that voters approved at the March school meeting.
This will leave some $282,000 that will either automatically be used to lower the tax rate slightly in each of the five District towns or the board can vote to spend some or all of these surplus dollars.
Spending up to $60,000 to purchase 60 laptops — of which 25 would be replacements for donated used machines — and 10 to 12 whiteboards that each cost $1,500 will allow WMRHS and both the Lancaster and Whitefield Schools to be prepared for the new computer-based Common Core State Standards assessment tests that the state will require in 2015. Common Core exams will replace the NECAP tests, although NWEA tests will also continue.
It turns out that there are not enough powerful laptops in the District's inventory to allow whole classes — grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, plus grade 10 — to take the tests at once. Spreading them out, however, is very disruptive and a time-waster, Fensom explained.
Advancing the date when each classroom is outfitted with a whiteboard so all teachers can use today's standard technology would be a big plus, Fensom said. More and more teachers, especially at elementary schools, are embracing them, he explained.
Some school board members suggested to Dr. Fensom that he should continue to consider purchasing items that are either strategically significant to program success and-or to the safety of students. School board member Jim Brady noted that the girls' softball team that just won a state championship does not have an up-to-date batting cage. School board member Rep. Herb Richardson pointed out that many of the auditorium chairs are so old that they pose a safety hazard.
The next school board meeting at 7 p.m. on June 25 at the Jefferson School is the last one at which the school board can vote to expend 2011-2012 surplus funds.
The school board also unanimously voted to spend up to $500 to rent a booth at the Lancaster Fair from Wednesday, Aug. 29 to Sept. 3.
Members plan to present information on the proposed Career and Technical Education (CTE) project at WMRHS. District residents will also have a chance to provide input and to learn when meetings are scheduled before March 12, 2013, when they will be asked to vote "yes" to a bond issue, with the state picking up the bulk of the cost.
The board also voted to hire JoLee Ratcliffe, guidance counselor, LES-JES, at a $33,410 salary, Step 1-MA.