The Starkville School District Board of Directors will consider approval of a laptop lease program for 360 SSD teachers and several state-mandated policy changes at its meeting at noon Tuesday at the Greensboro Center.
The laptop lease bid on the agenda comes from Synergetics and would equip each teacher with a Lenovo E530 ThinkPad Notebook at a cost of $410.83 per year per laptop, or $147,898.52 per year in total. SSD Superintendent Lewis Holloway said the computers will come pre-loaded with Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Word, the InformationNOW online student information system and other programs teachers need.
“When (the teachers) get the laptops, hopefully, they’ll be able to start using them immediately in their lesson plans, and if something goes wrong with the laptop, the teachers (can) just change it out,” Holloway said. “We’ll have extras on hand so that there will be no downtime with it. (The laptop lease program) is a big item for us.”
The board will also consider amending 20 school board policies, largely to comply with state-level changes from the 2012 Legislative Session. Holloway said the only amendments not required by law change the way the school district charges others for using its facilities.
“We don’t have a comprehensive (policy on) what we charge for school facilities, and if you’re going to be a Freedom of Access school district — which we are, which means we rent our facilities to other people — we just felt that we needed a clear policy (on) what we charge and how those charges are laid out.”
Another notable policy change will force the SSD to begin new academic years on or after the third Monday in August beginning with the 2014-2015 school year. Holloway said this change poses a challenge.
“It’s going to push us back almost three weeks starting school, which will push us to ending in June,” Holloway said. “Typically, schools want to finish their first semester before Christmas, and with that change, I don’t think it’s possible to finish before Christmas. (Students) would come back in January and face a (nine-weeks) test.”
The board will consider changing its grading policy to prevent other staff members from altering grades teachers give unless they determine the grade is in error or demonstrably inconsistent with the teachers’ grading policies. According to the board agenda packet, violation of this policy can result in accreditation loss, and Holloway said this is likely a response to other Mississippi school districts’ actions.
“I know in athletics, that has happened in some school districts and caused great problems,” Holloway said. “Actually, in my past, not in this school district (but in Bulloch County, Ga.), I’ve had some issues with administrators changing grades that shouldn’t have been (changed).”
Holloway said the board will also go over a spreadsheet detailing all of the SSD’s connections with Mississippi State University. He said this discussion stems from a meeting the SSD had last week with MSU President Mark Keenum about ways to strengthen the SSD-MSU partnership.
“It seemed a logical place to begin is to go ahead and put on a spreadsheet all the connections that we currently have,” Holloway said.
“From that, we can build in other connections. I truly think that the school district (is) just beginning to scratch the surface of what is available. They have a significant engineering department, they do automotive technology, they do flight and space (studies,) they have a vet school. It’s just a truly huge resource for the school district, and I think everybody wins if we can connect teachers and students with those types of things.”