By Rosemary K. Otzman
The Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education approved the purchase of 1,600 Nook HD+ tablets so every student at Belleville High School will have one to use at home and school.
Students in the BHS New Tech program already have laptops.
At Monday’s meeting the $316,446 payment to Barnes & Noble was unanimously approved, using money from the high school bond fund.
The District Technology Plan and the Van Buren Public Schools have set a goal of one-to-one computing for all students within the next five years, said BHS Principal Abdul Madyun.
As part of this process, BHS would like to enter into a pilot program/partnership with Barnes and Noble, he told the board.
About 400 Nooks were given out to freshmen over the last three years and those will be passed on to students in other schools, probably Owen and/or McBride.
After 8-10 hours of use, the new Nooks need to be charged – for 3 ½ hours from a dead battery, said Christian Anderson, digital sales manager for Barnes & Noble.
The students will sign a contract with the school for replacement of the Nook if it is lost or broken. Principal Madyun said they are considering charging students a $5 to $10 fee per year to use for those that are lost or damaged, like a “self-insurance” program. Fees will be waived for students in economic duress, he said.
He said the Nooks will be handed out at the beginning of the school year and collected at the end of the school year for cleaning.
Principal Madyun said the plan is eventually to have such tablets for all students in grades 5-12 for the district’s “anytime, anywhere learning.”
School Supt. Michael Van Tassel said this is really about encouraging reading. He said the students are required to read 10 books for each of their high school years, a total of 40, and there will be 80 or 90 books on their Nooks.
When Treasurer Sherry Frazier questioned whether students will be able to use the Nooks if their parents can’t afford wi-fi access, Supt. Van Tassel said the books can be read without such access since they are loaded into the Nooks.
“If they never get on the internet, there’s a lot there,” Van Tassel said. “The purpose is not to have them run around on the internet … It’s to get kids to read … and use the graphic calculator.”
The calculators are included in the Nooks and Madyun said it costs $90 each for the calculators, otherwise.
Not having to buy the separate books for students to read in the long run will save money, Madyun said.
While most of the books loaded on the Nooks will be paid for, they will be stored in a cloud and can be loaded on other Nooks in the future, Madyun said. Some classic books are free.
In other business at Monday’s meeting, the board:
• Approved the second reading and approval of board policy updates. The board committee is working on additional updates;
• Approved naming Howard “Dan” Wright as an assistant principal at BHS, with a salary of $90,827, plus fringes, for a one-year term effective Aug. 1. He has been a teacher in the district since 2002 and was a participant in the Principal Institute in 2012-13, assigned to BHS;
• Approved a flooring change order for shop and home economics rooms at McBride Middle and Owen Intermediate totaling $35,385.60 to Friends Fine Floor Covering in Belleville from the Sinking Fund. The upgrades raised the prices not to exceed $20,620 for McBride and $14,765 for Owen;
• Reviewed and praised the One, Three, and Five-Year Strategic Goals prepared by School Supt. Van Tassel;
• Approved paying $40,435 for wireless infrastructure for Owen Intermediate from NETech Corporation via the Western States Contracting Alliance contract bid. The District Technology Plan calls for district-wide wireless access by June 2016;
• Approved the use of school buses at the going rates for Huron Valley Ambulance Camp 911for a trip from the program at the U of M Boathouse in Van Buren Park to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital on Aug. 21and to Van Buren Township Fire Station #2 on Aug. 22;
• Approved the employment of Ryan Gray as a school bus mechanic starting Aug. 12;
• Approved the requested terminations of Edgemont teacher Kelly Schippers after 14 years of service for relocation as of July 11, and Owen Intermediate teacher Cara Boden after one year as of Aug. 5 for resignation;
• Approved employment of Ashley Adams as Math Interventionist at Rawsonville and Gregory Kirk as sixth grade teacher at Owen, both starting Aug. 27;
• Was reminded that the next meeting will be a work/study at 7 p.m. Aug. 19 and the next regular meeting will be at 7 p.m. Aug. 26, both at the administration building;
• Heard Treasurer Frazier suggest the district put up better signs at the school buildings to try and attract as many new students as possible. She said Keystone Academy charter school has a sign that says, “Accepting applications now” with a phone number. When she asked about the sign at Haggerty school, Van Tassel said last Thursday was the day the district got approval from the state for the Haggerty programs and a sign will be put up; and
• Went into executive session with a school attorney to discuss an extension to the current contract for Supt. Van Tassel. At the July 22 meeting, board president Brent Mikulski said he wanted to discuss with the district’s attorney an extension to the superintendent’s contract. The contract was automatically extended for a year when the board decided not to vote on it earlier this year. Mikulski said once he had information from the attorney, it will be discussed in executive session. The contract currently runs until June 30, 2015, with pay of $139,000 as of July 1, 2013.
By Rosemary K. Otzman