By CHERIL VERNON
After a long discussion, Westwood Independent School District Board of Trustees approved a $898,029 technology bid from Dell during the regular school board meeting Monday at Westwood High School’s fine arts theater — providing 700 tablets for students and 150 tablet-to-laptop hybrid devices for teachers to use beginning in the 2013-14 school year.
The move to integrate more technology in the classroom is part of WISD’s One-to-One Technology Initiative.
A district committee made up mostly of teachers and students and led by WISD Assistant Superintendent Dr. Clint McLain met at least six times since the fall of 2012, looking at different options for the technology initiative and visiting a handful of schools for site visits.
Putting a large emphasis on finding a device that would fill the educational needs of students and teachers — and a device capable of using for state testing — led to the committee choosing Dell’s Latitude 10 Tablets for students and the XPS 12 Ultrabooks™.
“For our secondary students especially, we need cutting edge technology,” McLain said.
Dell community liaison David Fritz explained to the school board the benefits of the Latitude 10 Tablets, which were designed not for the average consumer but for business models and more suitable for school districts who need a device durable enough for use by students.
The tablets feature Windows 8 technology and include free upgrades throughout the warranty period. Anti-theft and antivirus software also are included. The teachers will have a monitoring system where they can shut down or lock screens to keep students on task, if necessary.
In addition, due to a volume licensing agreement, Dell will provide a free copy of Microsoft Office 2010 or 2013 for each students’ personal computer — so that homework or assignments could be worked on at home then transferred back to the tablet, if needed.
Junior high and high school students would be given the tablets at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year and would return them before the end of the school year. Students and parents would be encouraged to take care of the tablets with a $30 buy-in to use the tablet. Students can pay in $5 increments if needed.
Before approving the bid, school board members expressed concerned on whether the tablets would last at least five years. The bid does cover three years full warranty.
“After our three years are up, we can look at this again and see what we want to do,” McLain said. “We don’t know where technology will lead us three years from now.”
Fritz said the tablets are guaranteed for the first three years and could possibly last as long as five years or indefinitely, depending on its wear and tear.
Dell will work with Todd English, the district’s technology director, to set up the tablets specifically for student usage as far as what can be accessed and what cannot be accessed by students. Each student will have a secure login.
WISD Director of Curriculum/Federal Programs Cindy Christian said the tablets would enable students to go to the primary source for information during the research process.
“Instead of reading in their history book, they can read a part of the actual Declaration of Independence or read the Emancipation Proclamation,” Christian sited as examples during the meeting.
Westwood High School Assistant Principal Shane Jones also could see uses for the tablets in the classrooms.
“It opens up a whole new world,” Jones said. “Instead of going to the library and not being able to do a report on a person because that book is already checked out, they have an unlimited number of resources.”
School board member Don Rice suggested tabling the request to approve the technology bid for more information but failed to get a second motion.
Discussion revolved around the district’s timeline to get the devices into the teachers’ hands by March so they could become familiar with them and attend training sessions, so that by August the district could be ready to utilize the technology for students in the 2013-14 school year.
School board member Dr. Carolyn Booker encouraged the board to go forward with the bid due to the work the committee put into the project.
“They have already done the investigation on the different types of instruments and how they are going to utilize it in the district,” Booker said during the discussion.
Eventually, on a motion by Booker and a second by school board president Theresa Bambeck, the Dell technology bid was approved. Rice abstained from voting. Board members Joni Barone and John Tilley were absent.
In other action, the school board:
• EXTENDED Superintendent Ed Lyman’s contract by one year, now effective through 2016.
• CALLED a school board election for May 11 for trustee positions, 1, 3 and 7 (Booker, Bambeck and Kim Crawford). Crawford was appointed to fill the position in December 2012 that was vacated by Carey McKinney a few months before.
• HEARD report on facility improvement information from sub-committee
• APPROVED the high school course catalogue. McLain noted that the deposit for concurrent Trinity Valley Community College students was raised from $120 to $210. Students who pass all of their classes get their deposit refunded. The raise was made due to the rising cost of tuition the last few years, McLain said. The average cost to the school district for a student taking two TVCC classes is at least $420.
• APPROVED resolution suspending the 15 percent end-of-course grade rule.
• APPROVED consent agenda items.
• RECOGNIZED student representatives to the board, Abby Phelps and Pedro Umanzor
• ANNOUNCED the Proud Panther Winner for 2012-13
• RECOGNIZED trustees for January Board Recognition Month. A short reception also was held.