Board debates grant options

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 3, 2007

WINTON – Stay the course.

The Hertford County Board of Education decided that was their best option last week when presented with the opportunity to apply for a Golden Leaf Foundation grant.

That decision came despite a recommendation from the Hertford County Public School administration to take a different route with the grant funding available to the county.

Technology Director Mark Samberg’s presentation suggested the board apply for nearly $1.5 million to fund computers and the Electronic Textbook Project at Hertford County High School.

The proposal called for the purchase of 1,350 Dell computers for students and an additional 100 for teachers. It also called for the purchase of 100 LCD projectors and 1,450 Epic Software packages.

The total request for grant funding was $1,490,010.50.

The suggestion almost immediately seemed doomed when board member Ronald G. Baker asked how the district would fund replacements for the computers. Samberg said he didn’t know.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael G. Basham said the computers would go to tenth graders for two consecutive years and the district could choose to replace them or simply let them be used until they wear out.

Board member David Shields said the board agreed on a plan as early as two months ago for technology to be spread throughout the district beginning at Ahoskie Elementary School and Riverview Elementary School.

“Why not move forward with the plan and bring in the middle school and Bearfield,” Shields asked.

Dr. Basham said his thinking was that a program was in place to help the other schools and the opportunity to apply for new funding seemed to him a good way to try to help HCHS.

Shields said he couldn’t understand why the administration would suggest leaving the plan just adopted.

“Why spend our dollars when we can use the Golden Leaf money and spend ours on other things that are needed,” Shields asked. “I don’t understand why we’re jumping off the program we have.”

Baker said he would vote for the proposal if it was the consensus of the board, but added he had some concerns about it. One of those concerns was information he had seen that laptops did not significantly impact test scores in the districts where they had been placed.

The second was more basic concern.

“When you pass them (the laptops) out, there will be one-third less in two weeks,” Baker said. “When they die, we don’t have the money to replace them.”

Board member J. Wendell Hall asked if there was time to rewrite the proposal. He said if there was, he agreed with his fellow board members.

He also said he wanted to know if changing the proposal would lessen the district’s chances of getting funding.

Board member Dennis M. Deloatch said he was at the Golden Leaf meeting and he didn’t feel that going along with the wishes of the board would have any negative impact on the grant funding.

Curtis A. Freeman, the chairman of the Hertford County Commissioners, was present at the meeting and said the commissioners wanted the proposals to be in County Manager Loria Williams office on August 31.

He further stated the county had decided to pare the proposals down so as not to submit 15-20 to Golden Leaf and risk none of them being funded. Freeman said the proposals chosen would need broad countywide support.

Hall then said he heard all of the information about technology, but he wasn’t sure technology was even the best choice of where to seek funding. He talked about funding for the Early College High School program.

Hall said he wasn’t sure technology would get the broad county support needed to be chosen as one of the county’s representative proposals.

Shields said the board needed to present a proposal that was sustainable and Baker said the computers at HCHS did not meet those criteria.

“I’ve been listening and what we’re saying is we already have a technology plan,” Deloatch said. “If Epic is something we want to make part of it, fine, but let’s stick to the program. I agree with Mr. Shields.”

Baker made a motion to redraft the proposal following the technology plan and Shields offered a second. The motion passed on a 4-1 vote with Hall dissenting.