iPad Program: Cost to Parents or Savings?

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

The Octorara Area School District Work Session Meeting, for Aug 12, was highlighted by several items surrounding the iPad program. These items include an annual fee to parents. However, before all that, let’s go over some other high points first.

Dramatic Pause

The work session meeting began with the Directors and Dr Newcome excusing themselves for a 25 minute Executive Session for personnel issues. Under Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act, “an Executive Session may be held during an open meeting, at the conclusion of an open meeting, or may be announced for a future time. The reason for holding the executive session must be announced at the open meeting occurring immediately prior or subsequent to the Executive Session.” However, this Execution Session was spontaneously announced during the open meeting it was held.

After the Executive Session, toward the end of the Work Session, Dr Newcome informed the audience, while thanking the Board, the Executive Session was for voting on personnel items that were needed before the start of school. The Pennsylvania Sunshine Act states sessions regarding personnel issues can only involve, “the employment, appointment, termination of employment, terms and conditions of employment, evaluation of performance, promotion or disciplining of any specific prospective public officer or employee or current public officer or employee employed or appointed by the agency, or former public officer or employee, provided, however, that the individual employees or appointees whose rights could be adversely affected may request, in writing, that the matter or matters be discussed at an open meeting.”

Moreover, Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association explains, “[the] Sunshine Act clearly establishes that the legitimate purposes of an executive session are fairly limited. First and most importantly, official action on matters discussed at an executive session must always take place at an open meeting. In other words, an executive session at which agency members take a vote, establish policy, decide agency business or make official recommendations is an unlawful meeting. Given the incidence of hotline calls regarding decisions made during executive sessions, it seems that many officials are unaware of this limitation as well as the statutory admonition that an executive session shall not be used ‘as a subterfuge to defeat the purposes of [the open meeting requirement].'”

Moving on…

The next order of business included a list of transfers, resignations, and new and temp hiring. Each item was unanimously approved without comment.

There will be a vote next week to a $15,738 contract with Easter Lancaster County School for Special Education Life Skills and Transitional Services. Nelson Stoltzfus question why the contract was necessary. Dr Newcome believed, but was uncertain, that it was because of special circumstances with 1 or (maybe) 2 students. We were told the issue would be researched, and there will be an answer next week.

iPad or iBroke?

This section will mix agenda items up for a vote next week, parts of Lisa Bowman’s Policy Committee Meeting Report, and several Administrative and Board comments.

The Policy Committee worked on (nonspecific) changes to the iPad program, and changes to the Acceptable Use Policy (as per agreement with Apple). The Acceptable Use Policy, along with the 2013-14 iPad Program Handbook will be agenda items at the Regular Meeting next week. In the Policy Committee Report, it was stated the Jr/Sr High School handbook will be digital, and placed on student iPads.

Also, the annual fee charged to parents for students to receive the iPad was negotiated from $50 to $30. Hank Oleyniczak commended the reduction, stating the $50 was the amount they had always talked about from the beginning. However, you are not alone if you are asking, “What $50?” I went back over my notes and couldn’t find any discussion of fees to parents. It could be poor note taking on my part… maybe…possibly… probably not.

The $30 fee pays for a $25 Apple annual insurance, and a $5 app fee. iPads will be issued to all students grades 7-12. However, parents will be required to pay the fee, and attend a special meeting, before their child is issued one.

Dr Newcome stated the iPad is equivalent in cost to roughly 3 regular text books, and as the district moves to eTextbooks there will be a long-term savings. Whether we are talking about the iPad, Kindle Fire, or Android Devices, the savings using eTextbooks on any device is up to 50%. As a district buying in bulk, I’m sure the district should be able to save more.

However, since this program has been announced, I have asked, “Why iPads and not a less expensive alternatives with equal power?” Apple devices tend to more image over substance. Apple’s proprietary systems locks consumers into Apple, which is why they charge a premium. Apples reputation is more about them marketing to educational institutions (and the graphic industry) after Windows locked them out of the business world some 25+ years ago.

Time for Tim to get a Miracle Ear

Daniel Carsley, Business Manager, provided the Finance Committee Report. However, for the life of me I could not hear half of what he had to say. What I did grab was an issue with several businesses seeking to change/challenge their tax assessments, and a proposed/pending change to charter school tuition. Little details were given, but I am sure more information will be forthcoming as each of these issues develop.

And in conclusion…

Brian Norris, Dr Newcome, and several others will be travelling to Kennett today for more information on Common Core. To date, while the district is moving to conform, only Leon Lapp has taken an official position. In the past, Mr Lapp has used strong language against Common Core, calling it the Dumbing Down of America.

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