The Ladysmith School Board received an update on the district’s curriculum and technology, noting having the technology is good but having trained staff using devices in the classroom is better.
The last technology presentation to the school board prior to Jan. 15 was about 8 years ago. After consolidating from three to two schools, officials are taking a new look at the district’s needs.
Last week, the presentation concluded that it is best to maintain the existing equipment refresh plan while using a combination of grants and district funds for a full network update over the next few years. District staff also concluded it will be best to continue working with curriculum personnel for technology alignment and moving toward regular training at all staff levels. They also want to set expectations of technology integration and competency levels and secure a stipend for up to two staff members to Google certify to be district trainers.
Everything enters and exits the district through the Ladysmith Middle & High School that serves district offices and the elementary school.
The highly technical presentation broke down the inner workings of the district’s entire network and plan for replacing equipment as it ages and becomes obsolete. The refresh program showed how frontline devices used by teachers and staff are replaced every four years before being demoted to secondary “classroom use.”
The district’s computer equipment includes 259 converted PC to Chrome laptops and desktops, 310 Chromebooks and 50 iPads, not all of which are in use, but still on inventory.
Reducing one whole school site did make a sizable difference in machine load, according to Jim Scherzer, the school district’s technology coordinator.
Equipment refresh reduces the risk of hardware failure and bad experiences by users, Scherzer told the board.
The district is at the start of the planning stage of a network refresh.
“With E-Rate, Teach grant and district funding we will refresh the network over about a 2-3 year period,” Scherzer said.
The district’s usually has between 400 and 450 personal devices daily connected to its guest network, according to Scherzer.
“On many days that can outnumber our district devices, especially on the wireless. That is due mostly to personal phones. I have started to see an increase in Fitbits, personal health devices, watches and smart watches. Many things like these are starting to show up on the network,” Scherzer said.
The district’s printing needs are managed by Papercut software controlling 22 printing devices and approximately 800 active users. Printer support and repair is supplied by contract with E.O. Johnson. Currently in year two of a five year agreement.
A VoIP phone system was installed 1-1/2 years ago with a 8-12 year life cycle. A phone appliance is at both sites to service 80 phones at LMHS and 56 at LES. This provides a full suite of services like voice message, paging and conference calling.
Over the last year an electronic key fob system for exterior doors has been installed. At the elementary school four main doors have keypads. All other exterior doors except two have had the keyhole plugged with the two rekeyed. Only fobs for exterior doors are then issued to staff. At LMHS seven main doors have keypads.
Video surveillance was upgraded less than a year ago. Across the two sites 105 cameras have been placed. This active monitoring around the clock with recorded video. Camera feed is available to approved staff on the desktop. This was installed with security grant funds.
Basic classroom technology in place is as follows.
At LES each classroom has:
n VoIP Phone
n 65” interactive display
n 4-9 Chrome desktops/laptops
n Teacher laptop
n Some with a document camera.
At LMHS each classroom has:
n VoIP Phone
n 3-9 Chrome desktops/laptops
n Teacher laptop
n Some with a document camera.
n Upgrade to 65” interactive displays has begun with the first six ordered and delivered.
Chromebook carts are available with three at the high school having 27 to 30 units, two at the middle school having 27 to 30 units and three at the elementary school having 27 to 30 units.
The elementary school has two computer labs, one in the library with 24 seats and one in a classroom with 30 seats.
LMHS has five computer labs — two rooms with 30 seats each, business education with 30 seats, a CAD lab with 17 seats and the FAB lab with 13 seats.
In the school libraries, an online library catalog is for use at school and home and available at any time.
The facilities provide online resources for students and families at school and home, including World Book online and the research database WebPath Express and easy access to the state’s free online resource, Badgerlink. Staff assist students in the MS/HS library with their use of technology and software application. Students practice technology skills in K-5 library classes and integrate those skills with classroom teachers. A lab of 20 chromebooks is available for student use in the elementary library.
The technology is aligned with the curriculum in both buildings.
At the elementary school the Google Chrome browser is compatible with online resources. There are 3-9 Chrome devices in each classroom, two 24-30 seat computer labs and three Chromebook carts with 27-30 Chromebooks each. A typing program needs to be purchased. No changes needed for future planned curriculum.
At the middle/high school, the Google Chrome browser is compatible with online resource. There are 3-6 Chrome devices in each classroom, two 30-seat computer labs, a 30-seat business education lab, a 17-seat Computer Aided Drafting lab, a 13-seat Fab lab facility and an 8-seat distance learning lab. There are five Chromebook carts with 27-30 Chromebooks each.
“Training for all staff on current district technology use is needed,” Scherzer stated.
Scherzer told the board some companies will only support devices up to five years.
School board member Jeff Wallin called the presentation informative, but asked why it was made to the board.
Interim School District Administrator Mike Cox told board members they should be able to answer questions from the public, making it meaningful to have the technology presentation.
“Yes we do have a lot of technology, and we do spend a lot on technology,” Cox said. “The technology is old.”
He added computers have a life cycle of about 5 years and a network of about 8 years. He also said Hayward schools have been offering one device per student for about 10 years, and Ladysmith right now might have enough to match that level of individual technology use.
“It is a continuing cost to school districts to keep technology up to date,” Cox said. “We do provide technology, and it is costly.”
“We have a lot of equipment but our need now is training for staff to use the equipment we have to the utmost level, and to do that we need to get some people trained in some areas. We are going to look at putting money into it for next school year,” Cox said.
Staff training was an ongoing theme during the presentation, cited on several occasions by Cox and Scherzer.
“A big one is training for all staff, and when I say all staff this means everyone, not just district teachers, on current district technology use,” Scherzer said.
“I see this as a big one,” Scherzer said. “We definitely have tools, now it is time to really try and teach these tools. The more a classroom instructor is comfortable with the environment they are in the more they can help the students and the students take off from there.”
Training could come in the form of mandatory and optional classes for staff, according to Scherzer. He added another option is to secure stipends to train staff to serve as district trainers to serve as “go-to” people for troubleshooting.
“The flip side of training is definitely setting expectations of the integration and the competency levels. If we are going to train we need to know this equipment is going to be used and staff will stay current with knowing what they are doing with the equipment in front of them,” Scherzer said.
“We have the tools, now give them the knowledge to use them,” Scherzer said.
School Board President Todd Novakofski questioned the district’s adequacy of staff training, especially outside office personnel. “That is where we have not been putting a whole lot of money,” he said.
“It is the training and then beyond the training,” Cox said. “If we train the people to utilize the technology then it has to be used in the classroom. That is where the principals come in as far as evaluations. Is the technology being used as a tool in the classroom.”