ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Brainerd School Board: Dude, you're getting a device!

Aging technology resources have led the Brainerd Public Schools to purchase new devices for district staff to use. The Brainerd School Board Monday night unanimously approved the purchase of 550 2-in-1 tablet laptop devices for staff. The school ...

Steve Lund (right), director of business services for Brainerd Public Schools, speaks to the Brainerd School Board Monday night about purchasing 2-in-1 tablet laptop devices for district staff. Also pictured is Technology Director Sarah Porisch. (Brainerd Dispatch/Spenser Bickett)
Steve Lund (right), director of business services for Brainerd Public Schools, speaks to the Brainerd School Board Monday night about purchasing 2-in-1 tablet laptop devices for district staff. Also pictured is Technology Director Sarah Porisch. (Brainerd Dispatch/Spenser Bickett)

Aging technology resources have led the Brainerd Public Schools to purchase new devices for district staff to use.

The Brainerd School Board Monday night unanimously approved the purchase of 550 2-in-1 tablet laptop devices for staff.

The school board in February approved a request for proposals for 550 tablet laptop devices for faculty. The request sought quotes on leasing devices for three- and four-year terms along with an upfront full purchase option. Preliminary district budgets for the next three years allocate $125,000 annually for leasing laptop computers for the faculty. The devices can be used as either laptops or tablets. A review of the district's technology revealed 80 percent of faculty computers are seven to 10 years old.

The district received five proposals:

• From Tierney Brothers, Inc., for Toshiba Protégé Z20T

ADVERTISEMENT

• From Dell, for Dell Latitude 7275

• From Marco, for HP Elite X2

• From Trinity 3 Technology, for Microsoft Surface

• From OfficeMax, for Lenovo Yoga 260

Monday, Steve Lund, director of business services for the district, said the staff recommendation was to purchase 550 Toshiba Protégé Z20 devices for district staff from Tierney Brothers, Inc. Staff also recommended the four-year lease-return agreement at an annual installment of $136,059.

The four-year lease term amortize the cost of the machines over a longer term, reducing the overall annual cost, Lund said. The devices come with a three-year manufacturer warranty, so there is some risk exposure in the fourth year of the lease, he said. But, the lower overall annual cost mitigates some of the risk.

Technology Director Sarah Porisch said teachers will be able to be completely mobile in the classroom with the Toshiba device. The device includes all necessary ports, she said, which means the district won't need to purchase additional docks in order to hook the devices up to existing monitors, interactive boards, digital displays and auxiliary devices

"We can use our existing monitors, our existing mice can be used with this," Porisch said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Both the vendor and Toshiba offer plenty of training, Porisch said, and will offer as much training as the district needs until staff are ready to use the devices. There's one day of on-site software training, she said, and one year of access to help via an online chat.

The vendor will provide staff training in order to enable on-site repair of the devices, Lund said. This means the district's technology staff will be able to do most repairs in-house, he said, lessening the need to ship devices out for repairs. If shipping for warranty work is needed, the shipping will be paid both ways.

The manufacturer warranty doesn't cover accidents like drops, Porisch said, but technology staff predict there won't be enough accidental damage to make it worthwhile to purchase an additional accidental warranty. The purchase also includes 20 spare devices in case a regular device gets damaged.

Lund pointed out the Toshiba tablet connects to its keyboard via a latch, which means the tablet and keyboard are well secured when connected.

"Many of them are more magnetic, so when you grab them, it flies apart," Lund said. "Where here you have to manually disconnect it with a latch."

The Toshiba devices are brand-new, Lund said, so when the lease term expires in four years, the devices will still be state-of-the-art. At that time, the district can look at what other device options are available.

"The interesting thing about technology, that we're all aware of, is that it doesn't necessarily get any cheaper," Lund said. "It gets better at about the same price."

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Financing

The equipment purchase will come from the operating capital budget, Lund said. The state Legislature has provided school districts with more authority over their long-term facilities maintenance revenue, he said, which means the district can free up funding which can be reallocated for technology.

During the next three years, the district can increase its technology funding from its current level of $170,000 to $500,000, Lund said. During the same period, long-term facilities maintenance can increase from about $900,000 to nearly $2.5 million.

"So significant increases being able to be achieved in both of those categories with this opportunity within the levy authority," Lund said.

Lund stressed the 2017-18 and 2018-19 budgets are yet to be approved, so additional revenue isn't a foregone conclusion. But, he said he's comfortable the district will be able to fund the lease during the coming years.

"I feel comfortable in being able to pay for this out of our operating capital," Lund said.

Interim Superintendent Bob Gross pointed out the present age of staff computers necessitates an investment in upgrading the devices. How the district approaches devices for students is yet to be determined, he said, but it needs to start with upgrading devices for staff.

"This is just simply an investment that probably just has to be made," Gross said. "It has to be addressed."

 

Teacher input

A digital display is a very important classroom device, Porisch said, because it allows a teacher to present information and interact with students. The Toshiba devices will use software which can change the tablet into an interactive board, she said. This means teachers can walk around and hand the device to students, who can then write on the board from the tablet.

Janelle Menzel, math teacher at Brainerd High School South Campus, uses an Interwrite mobile pad in her classroom currently.

"It is really freeing to not be tied to the board," Menzel said. "It's a great tool to be able to check in with students, walk around the room."

Menzel currently uses her device to record her lessons if she knows she's going to miss a class and will need a substitute teacher. The sub can then play back her recorded lesson and stop it for students if necessary.

"Those features, I think, really make it more accessible to students," Menzel said. "And I think it's a really powerful tool and a great investment."

It's important for teachers to harness their own devices in their classrooms before putting devices in the hands of students, Menzel said. If students were mobile and teachers weren't, she said, teachers are tied to their desktop stations and can't teach as effectively.

The benefit of upgrading staff devices is that teachers throughout the district will be able to do the things Menzel does already, Porisch said.

"Some have great tools accessible to them," Porisch said. "And others don't, so this would kind of level that playing field."

Board chair Tom Haglin was absent Monday.

In other business, the board:

Accepted the retirement of Marianne VanVickle, gifted and talented resource teacher, who is retiring effective June 6. Board member Sue Kern thanked VanVickle Monday for her years of service, as well as for serving as her son's first grade teacher.

Accepted donations totaling $38,132 for the previous month.

Approved the 2017-18 school calendar as recommended by the board's Curriculum Committee.

Approved the purchase of 850 Google Chromebooks for grades 5-8 English Language Arts classrooms for the language arts pilot program. The purchase was recommended by the board's Curriculum Committee. The devices are being purchased this year to take advantage of price discount, resulting in an estimated savings of $50,000-$60,000. The total investment will be approximately $250,000 with a projected working life of 3-5 years for the devices.

 

SPENSER BICKETT may be reached at 218-855-5859 or spenser.bickett@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/spenserbickett .

Related Topics: BRAINERD HIGH SCHOOL
What To Read Next
Inmates in-custody in the Todd County jail in Long Prairie, Minnesota
Inmates in-custody in the Wadena County jail in Wadena, Minnesota
Inmates in-custody in the Aitkin County jail in Aitkin, Minnesota
Inmates in-custody in the Beltrami County jail in Bemidji, Minnesota