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Posted: 01/22/14

RCS taps general fund
for software on iPads

Observer Staff Writer
      General funds need to be used in lieu of the voter-approved technology bonds to purchase software for Romeo's elementary students.
       The Board of Education voted 6-1 to approve of spending $68,490 for implementing eSpark software on iPad Airs for K-5 students. Trustee Sara Murray cast the dissenting vote on Jan. 13.
       The board approved of $830,808 to purchase eSpark on Nov. 18 with a unanimous vote. The software provides apps for students to improve in areas like math and reading.
       Superintendent Nancy Campbell said the district learned it couldn't use a portion of the technology bond funds for eSpark, so other funds would need to be used. She said to have the software installed and begin training on Jan. 20, the purchase needed to be approved immediately.
       "We would only have one discipline that would be able to be used by eSpark and that would be math," she said.
       Campbell said the district hasn't filled a $55,000 position for technology, so $30,000 from that can go toward the $68,490 payment. The payment is scheduled to go through next month.
       The following two years with eSpark would be payments of $42,981 each. Campbell said all but $16,000 could come out of Title II money for each of those payments.
       Murray said the software is important, but the district has no way of making up what it will have to spend from the general fund.
       "The fact is we're still bleeding money and we're still over-spending," she said. "In my mind, if you can show me the $70,000 right here right now that you're going to get this from somewhere else I'm fine, but we can't."
       Vice-president Chris Giancarli said the board would like administration to find additional sources or budget cuts for the cost, but he could justify the expense since it will directly impact student learning.
       "I'd like to be careful about our over-spending statements," he said. "The budgeting is set up for us to look bad and we always come out better."
       Trustee Anita Banach said she doesn't believe the expenditure or budget was a mismanagement of funding, saying the budget is set up to spend out of fund equity.
       "I appreciate the fact of saying we're now going to spend this one line item out of a very large budget that we thought could be out of bond dollars," she said, adding the district could spend the unused tech bonds in the future.
       Executive Director of Business Affairs David Massoglia said he would encourage the expenditure even though there are over-spending concerns with the district's $5 million budget.
       "It's not a huge amount for a one-time cost," he said.
       He said he could bring back possibilities on how the district can restore the expense at the board's next meeting, but couldn't guarantee anything.

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