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TMCNet:  TPS board considering technology bond issue

[February 26, 2013]

TPS board considering technology bond issue

Feb 26, 2013 (Tulsa World - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Every Tulsa classroom would receive the basic necessities of modern instructional technology if voters approve a new $38 million bond issue that could be on the ballot this spring, Tulsa Public Schools officials said Monday.

The Tulsa school board on Monday night got a glimpse of what could soon be a "standard classroom" in Tulsa Public Schools, featuring a desktop computer, interactive whiteboard with speakers, iPad, document camera, Internet Protocol TV, and wireless Internet access.

"This won't get us to a one-to-one student-computer ratio, but it will get us well on our way," said Ellen Duecker, director of instructional media and library services, noting that more than $15 million would be dedicated to purchasing computing devices just for students. "By distributing this on a per pupil basis and setting standards, this will help us have equity across the sites." The school board is set to decide next week whether to put the "Smart and Secure Schools" proposal before Tulsa voters on May 14.

Public forums about the proposal are set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Education Service Center, 3027 S. New Haven Ave., and 6 p.m. Thursday at East Central High School, 12150 E. 11th St.

District administrators say the bond proposal would simply allow the district to play catch-up with many suburban school districts -- not put it in any position to lead in the area of classroom technology.

The bond funds would provide: --Classroom computer funds to be distributed to school sites at $337 per pupil. They would go toward desktop and laptop computers, with a minimum student-to-computer ratio of 3-to-1 and the goal of having no computer more than 5 years old.

--All desktop and laptop computers would be compliant with online testing requirements for the new curriculum standards Oklahoma public schools will be implementing over the next couple of years.

--Copiers, printers, scanners and fax machines would be upgraded to improve efficiency and functionality.

--All principals and teachers would have a tablet computer, such as an iPad, and related curriculum for classroom and office use.

--Library ebooks would be purchased for circulation and downloading on computers and tablet computers.

--Wireless access at every school site and increased Internet bandwidth based on federal standards.

--Fire sprinklers in all 11 facilities with wooden structures that do not currently have them.

--Upgrades to existing fire and intrusion alarm panels district-wide.

--Needed repairs or replacements of security cameras and door systems.

A committee of administrators began studying technology needs last fall, and by January, the school board had appointed a 20-member, citizen-led bond development committee to craft a proposal based on needs identified by teachers and principals.

Rodger Randle, co-chairman of the citizen-led bond development committee, told the board his group spent "hours and hours" studying the needs of the school district.

"We're not talking about just buying items of technology," said Randle, a former Tulsa mayor. "This would represent a comprehensive commitment to technological competence, including all of the training and professional development required." In the mid-1990s, TPS embarked on a 20-year bond plan to update its facilities, classroom and library resources, and Transportation Department.

Millage rates have remained level through all five voter-approved bond packages since then, but the Smart and Secure Bond would increase costs slightly for property owners, if approved.

Officials estimate that the owners of a house valued at $100,000 would see their tax levy increase by $3.38 per month, or $40.50 per year, beginning in the fall of 2014.

The district's last bond election was in 2010, when Tulsa voters overwhelmingly approved a $354 million bond package that is mostly dedicated to facility renovations and repairs. The district is two years away from completing that bond package.

Ten percent of all bond packages since 1996 have been dedicated to technology. But officials say the Tulsa district has been much more conservative in its level of bonded indebtedness than suburban districts and that, as a result, funding for instructional technology has suffered in comparison.

If the Smart and Secure Bond proposal is approved, the Tulsa district would still have a mill levy lower than those in the Jenks, Sand Springs, Union and Broken Arrow school districts.

Funding significant technology improvements from the district's general fund isn't realistic, administrators said, because of significant state aid reductions over the last three years.

The financial crunch led Tulsa Public Schools to cut 355 jobs and close more than a dozen facilities as part of a districtwide consolidation effort.

Proposed costs of the TPS Smart and Secure Schools Bond --Electrical/server room upgrades $2.2 million --Fire sprinkler systems at 11 sites $3.676 million --District-wide security upgrades $2.75 million --Classroom computers/tablets/software $15.126 million --Teaching technology equipment $6.138 million --District-wide wireless equipment $1.85 million --Multifunctional printing equipment $3.7 million --Internet infrastructure and capacity equipment upgrade $300,000 --Instructional learning & assessment software $1.15 million --District shared video technology $260,000 --New professional development system & equipment $90,000 --Professional services bond management fee $760,000 Total: $38 million Source: Tulsa Public Schools Andrea Eger 918-581-8470 ___ (c)2013 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.) Visit Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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