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School board buys technology in special called meeting

August 09, 2019 - 01:00
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    The Greene County School System will soon have 1,000 Chromebook computers and 7 charging carts. Students use the Chromebooks in school and put them in the charging carts when finished with their work. CONTRIBUTED


The Greene County Board of Education has agreed to purchase new technology for two schools and create a new part-time position for Greene County High School. It happened in a special called meeting on July 31, the night before school started.

Lake Oconee Academy had requested $350,000 from the Education Special Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) fund for installation of a computer network and intercom system on the school campus.

Some procedural confusion followed the first round of bidding so it was rebid but LOA said the second round resulted in a low bid of $367,170, more than $17,000 over budget. In its request for the full funding, LOA submitted justification but included only the bid information from the winner.

“Since the bid came in above what we anticipated,” suggested District 3 Board member Clarence Hunt, “why don’t we table this?”

Hunt felt it was important for board members to see all the bids on purchases, not just the winner.

CEO Otho Tucker told the board that LOA will “make it work” if required to pay the excess amount of $17,170.

By a unanimous 4-0 vote, the board agreed to pay the full amount of the low bid with the condition that LOA submit all the bids to the board. Chairman Mike Lynch could not attend the special meeting.

The BOE also approved $63,266 to purchase 210 Chromebooks and seven charging carts for Greene County High School.

Chromebooks are laptop computers frequently used for class work in schools. Here, they are not given to students because each classroom and study area has its own supply. The computers are returned to charging and security carts following each use.

The school system, excluding LOA, will now have approximately 1,000 Chromebooks, according to Superintendent Chris Houston.

“I notice where the Oconee County School System is just now going to Chromebooks,” Houston told the board. “They’re making the parents buy them so when they go home and they don’t come back, it’s not a problem for them. In our case, a large number of kids can’t afford to buy their own. I think we’re doing a good thing.”

Also, at the special called meeting, the Board of Education approved a new part-time position – Wraparound Building Specialist.

Greene County High School is developing a wraparound program that works with individual students, their families and the many nonprofit groups available in the community to help deal with issues that might be harming academic performance.

There is already one person, Beth Thomas, devoted to the program. But Houston says she needs help.

“She is also assigned to the scholarship programs, and helps manage volunteers,” Houston said. “As things have developed, as we have heard expectations from several board members and in our meetings, I keep hearing ‘we’ll give that to the wraparound, we’ll give that to the wraparound person.’ We realized right away that no matter how good Beth is, she’s not going to be able to get to all of it.”

Houston said the position, when filled, will not increase the budget because savings from certain offsets, including employee attrition, will cover the cost.