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Posted: 01/02/13

RCS prepares for tech
bond initiative in 2013

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      Rolling out a significant technology initiative and keeping an eye on the budget are in store for Romeo Community Schools in 2013.
       Administrators say the technology bond, approved by voters in November, is one of the biggest initiatives the district will roll out this year.
       The $16.4 million bond, which will be sold this month, will pay for technology improvements, with 79 percent going toward classroom technology, 11 percent will be dedicated to network upgrades, and the final 10 percent will update electrical connections.
       Superintendent Nancy Campbell said she is still grateful that voters approved the bond in the fall, saying it is a positive movement in otherwise dire financial times.
       "That is the shot in the arm that we need," she said. "Here we are doing something forward-thinking and really trying to make a difference and help our students learn in the way they learn best."
       Campbell said infrastructure will be the first step in the technology improvements to upgrade electrical components and the district's wireless network. She said infrastructure may not be fully in place until September.
       She said teachers have been surveyed about creating a 21st century student, with the information used to plan out technology implementation between now and June. Included in the bond is money for purchasing a personal device for each student and teacher, which are expected to be distributed in September.
       "I anticipate we'll be piloting different notebooks and handheld devices at different grade levels based on information from staff," Campbell said.
       During that time, the district is also looking into what professional development is available for faculty regarding education with the new technology.
       The steering committee is scheduled to meet on Jan. 8 and will set the first community meeting at that time.
      
       Budget concerns
       Should no changes be made in 2013-14, Romeo schools is facing $3.3 million in expenses over revenue with only $1.5 million in savings.
       Regarding the budget, Campbell said big ticket items that could be looked at for reducing costs include larger class sizes, privatization, health care or closing a building.
       She noted there are currently no discussions or plans in motion on the above-mentioned items.
       "The items are difficult and more challenging to consider," she said. "There isn't anywhere else to go."
       Campbell said the only negotiations that have been settled so far is for teacher aids, with the remaining employee groups still ongoing.
       "We're expecting to hear more about (Right to Work)," she said.
       She said this is compacted with an expectancy of not receiving new revenue from the state, and is a harsh reality to consider with the potential fiscal cliff, especially when considering other improvements like replacing the district's buses. She said in that instance, the district could investigate a bond or leasing to pay for bus replacements.
       "Buses can go for 400,000 miles, but that's when you're talking about well-paved roads," she said. "The average age of our buses is 11 years old."
       She said she expects financial issues to stick with the district for a while, or at least until the state bounces back economically.
       "Every decision that we make, every practice that we institute, it's all based on will that have an impact so that we can do more for our students," she said.
      
       Extra curriculum
       The district is continuing to host teachers from China as part of a cultural exchange program. The second group is arriving this month, while the third group of teachers will travel in the fall.
       "My reaction from the host families and Chinese teachers themselves has been very favorable," she said. "It was a great experience, we're looking forward with what we learned from cycle one."
       She said the principal from the Chinese school is looking to establish a "sister school" for a more in-depth relationship between Romeo High School and the Guizhou Province school.
       Campbell said she wants to expand the program to foreign exchange students as well.
       Campbell said she wasn't aware of what upcoming curriculum proposals the district will examine in 2013 as of mid-December. She said 25 different proposals were worked on at this time last year.
      


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