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Monday Moan: Here’s hoping Wayland board makes it 3-for-3

By Jeff Salisbury jeffsalisbury@charter.net

In recent weeks we’ve smister journalism2een the Wayland board go 2-for-2 in wise decisions and hopefully they are poised to make it 3-for-3 running the table so to speak in March.

First it was the decision to opt out of the thoroughly redundant Allegan County Early College Program, a decision which would have sent tens of thousands more local foundation grant dollars to Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor. The irony is that LMC already rakes in thousands of Wayland dollars annually via WHS students.

Then it was the more recent move to comply without contesting the Title IX complaint by reversing its earlier decision and including major renovations and updates to the never-completed middle school baseball diamond. The project, once completed, will give the baseball program two on-campus and regulation diamonds comparable to the two existing softball fields.

Next up is finalizing – one way or the other – a decision regarding a continuation of the now 3-year old Apple iPads purchase program. The board debated – well, make that “discussed” because there really hasn’t been much in the way of a debate. After all, no one’s heard the board discuss anything more than “can we find the money to do this” — no real discussion even (much less a debate) over putting Apple iPads in the hands of K-6 teachers, staff and faculty – and I must admit when I was on the board we weren’t asking very good questions either.

Some version of the following questions would be appropriate during any debate about 1-to-1 initiative proposals:

What training and development resources will  be needed  for 7-12 and K-6 teachers? How much will all that cost?

Where are you getting the curriculum for each grade level? How much will all that cost?

What do we know about how successful the curriculum has been in other comparable school districts?

Who’s reading the privacy policies on the apps our students will be using?

What percentage of the casino money being set aside will go toward evaluating the actual outcomes of the new systems?

Source: http://www.wnyc.org/story/edtech/

According to a study by the MSU School of Education as part of a survey of its student teachers use of and access to Apple iPads, by the end of the 2012-13 school year only 34 of 538 Michigan school districts had 1-to-1 Initiatives – and some of those were restricted to certain grade levels… in West Michigan only FIVE – Wayland, Plainwell, Byron Center, Godfrey-Lee and Zeeland – have such programs.

No one in education would say that students do not benefit by progressive, measured exposure to computers, laptops, tablets and e-readers among other wireless devices and that such exposure ought to unfold and increase grade-by-grade. But there are a number of reasons (beyond financial) that the VAST majority of school districts DO NOT undertake 1-to-1 device initiatives.

In Wayland, clearly this initiative is about “wants” more than it is about “needs” AND previous board members felt some administrative pressure to use the program as a marketing tool more so than an educational tool. Marketing, in my view, was the biggest reason the previous board approved the initial program. There is no “edge” that WUS graduates have when it comes to college or vocational school admission nor post-graduation employment simply because we are one of five West Michigan school districts to institute this program.

Should students have some significant familiarity with various devices? Of course – but that can be done far more prudently and economically than hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, year after year after year. Think instead of how to achieve the same goals and increase classroom instructional aides which has proven to be far more beneficial and measurable by the way. It’s arguably far better to increase 1-to-1 instructional opportunities for our students than 1-to-1 devices.

Most school districts wisely do their best to offer students from K to 12 various levels of access to personal computing and wireless devices including pc labs, iPads, Kindles, e-readers and tablets.

School Board Trustees can only be expected to make prudent monetary decisions and to act as responsible stewards of public dollars when and if they are given wise counsel and sound financial-planning advice from highly-skilled, fiscally knowledgeable administrators who are willing to avoid otherwise trendy decisions.

It’s time for the Board to make it 3-for-3 and say the district does not NEED more iPads no matter how badly some might WANT them.

Wayland Union Schools – Board of Education Meetings & Workshops

March 30, 2015 Administration Building, 850 E. Superior, Wayland – 6:00 p.m.

April 20, 2015 Wayland Union Middle School, 701 Wildcat Drive, Wayland – 7:00 p.m

May 18, 2015 Wayland Union Middle School, 701 Wildcat Drive, Wayland – 7:00 p.m

June 8, 2015 Wayland Union Middle School, 701 Wildcat Drive, Wayland – 7:00 p.m

June 22, 2015 Administration Building, 850 E. Superior, Wayland – 7:00 p.m

July 13, 2015 Administration Building, 850 E. Superior, Wayland – 7:00 p.m

BOARD MEMBERS

• Nancy Thelen, President, Email: nancyboe@waylandunion.net Phone: 616-877-3098

• Tom Salingue, Vice President, Email: tomboe@waylandunion.net Phone: 269-792-2061

• Toni Ordway, Treasurer, Email: ordwayt@waylandunion.net Phone: 269-910-3297

• Theresa Dobry, Secretary, Email: theresaboe@waylandunion.net Phone: 616-681-2119

• Pete Zondervan, Trustee, Email: zondervanp@waylandunion.net Phone: 616-450-1468

• Janel Hott, Trustee, Email: hottj@waylandunion.net  Phone: (h) 269-792-0297  (c) 269-250-0286

• Gary Wood, Trustee, Email: glw_boe@yahoo.com Phone: 616-681-2120.

Board members and parents and the general public MUST:

  1. Question Every Aspect of the District’s Essential and Non-Essential Educational Programming and Personnel (Needs versus Wants)
  2. Set General Fund & Casino Revenue Spending Guidelines
  3. Track and Trim All Expenditures & Make Targeted Programs & Personnel Cuts

Then:

  1. “Build ONE Budget” – combine general fund revenue (local, state and federal dollars) and Gun Lake Casino “in lieu of taxes” revenue … then…
  2. “Pay Yourselves First” – restore the fund equity – which dipped from 15% to 7% in four years – by committing to saving 1% to 1.5% per year for AT LEAST the next 5 years… and…
  3. “No More Loans” – resist the temptation to borrow more money on top of the $291,000 annual loan payments to United Bank for the science wing from 2015 to 2025… no loans for iPads, no loans for school buses – no more loans PERIOD.

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