By Rosemary K. Otzman
The Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education approved a $143,123 bid from NETech Corp to install internal connections that would allow the district to apply for E-Rate funding of about $100,440 of that cost.
At Monday’s school board meeting, Director of Finance Karen Moffitt explained the procedure, saying the district had to approve the bids for the 2013-14 school year before it could apply for E-Rate.
The purchase would be contingent upon receiving approval for E-Rate funding.
The internal connection bid from NETech was $68,923 for servers and switches (district cost to be $21,290.84) and up to $74,200 for cabling in various buildings (district cost to be $21,392).
Moffitt said, if approved, the district would receive a reimbursement through E-Rate of 82% of the total cost of the internal connections for all buildings except Savage.
One of the guidelines to qualify is the number of students in schools with free and reduced lunches, which eliminates Savage. Savage will get the connections at district expense, she said.
Moffitt said the district received $200,000 in E-Rate funds last year for web postings, local and long distance calls, and other usage.
School Supt. Michael Van Tassel explained the district is still working on the plan for this, but the deadline to apply is March 14 for next school year.
“We want to make sure the plan makes sense in all the buildings,” he said, adding they are still working on details for terms of 1 and 3 years.
“This is a good deal,” he said.
Board Vice President Martha Toth pointed out, “Every time we pay our telecommunication bill, we contribute to E-Rate.”
E-Rate is the commonly used name for the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, which is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The program provides discounts to assist most schools and libraries in the United States (and U.S. territories) to obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access. It is one of four support programs funded through a Universal Service fee charged to companies that provide interstate and/or international telecommunications services.
In other business at Monday’s meeting, the board:
• Approved the retirement of Donna Wright after 32.5 years of service at BHS as of March 18;
• Approved hiring Laura Maher as an intervention specialist at Owen as of March 7 and Blair Chamberlin as a math teacher at McBride as of March 18;
• Received an update on events at Belleville High School given by teachers Stefanie Halliday, Connie Testorelli, and Aaron Lang, with about 27 slides as part of the presentation;
• Approved the minutes of a March 4 disciplinary hearing, partly in closed session, that resulted in Student A being expelled from the Van Buren Public Schools. Sherry Frazier was absent and asked for a closed session at the beginning of Monday’s meeting to discuss those minutes. After 24 minutes the board returned to open session and unanimously approved those minutes;
• At the end of the meeting, went into a second closed session that resulted in a vote in open session that denied a student’s request for reinstatement in the Van Buren Public Schools. This was based on the recommendation from the committee “as convened under MCL 380.1311”;
• Heard Toth mark the passing of Bob Crane, who was a special education teacher in the district for 30 years. She said he promoted early childhood education, vocational education for all who were interested, and originated some of the earliest parent groups. Toth said she thinks someone who advocates for others, like he did, is very special; and
• Heard Supt. Van Tassel announce that the March 18 work/study session is cancelled, but the regular meeting on March 25 will have a lot of items on the agenda.
By Rosemary K. Otzman