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DeKalb School District 428 OKs $8.5M one-to-one technology plan

DeKALB – DeKalb School District 428 will spend nearly $8.5 million over the next five years to give every student a computer device. 

District 428 board members unanimously approved a districtwide one-to-one technology program during their meeting Tuesday that will be rolled out over the next three years by grade level. In the end, the district will have thousands of new devices and 16 new full-time staff members. 

Board members debated whether to roll out the program over the course of three or four years, but ultimately settled on the three-year program because it came with a staff recommendation and provided parity throughout the district, board President Tracy Williams said. 

“There’s no use to not do it right,” Williams said. 

The vote was met with applause from the standing-room-only crowd who gathered at the meeting Tuesday. Some of them, including parents, students and staff spoke in favor of the program before the board voted. 

“Please invest in our children by investing in this technology,” parent Mary Bauling said. 

It will be an investment from the district that could lead officials to have to make other cuts in the future, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Andrea Gorla said. 

Overall, the program will cost $5.4 million between the 2015-16 and 2017-18 school years. Five year projections show the district spending $8.5 million by the end of the 2019-20 school year. While the district will make some cuts and see extra revenue, leaders still project the program will leave the district with an annual deficit between $1.8 million and $3 million through 2020. 

Administrators will start the program by hiring six instructional coaches and two technology employees and putting devices in third through ninth grades for the 2015-16 school year. Second-graders, as well as sophomores, juniors and seniors will get devices in 2016-17 when the district hires one more coach and two IT staff members. In the final year of the rollout, the kindergarten and first-grade students will get devices, according the approved plan. 

Board member Mary Hess expressed trepidation about the three-year plan because of the volatility in funding and the need for the district to restructure high school construction bonds in 2017. The four-year plan would have cost $1.6 million less, according to staff reports. 

But board members Nina Fontana and Victoria Newport, echoing sentiments from district staff, said they wanted the district to focus on making all schools equal. 

“This four year [plan] takes away a lot of that and makes it so depending on what school you go to [that] you get a different type of education,” Newport said. 

The board made the switch to the three-year plan after Superintendent Doug Moeller said he stood behind it. He also said the district could delay the rollout if state or other funding does not come in as projected, but the district should forge ahead with one-to-one technology. 

“I am literally going on record saying ‘I put my head on the chopping block here,’ ” Moeller said. 

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