Board discusses technology upgrades

MANISTIQUE – The Manistique Board of Education discussed a variety of technology and system upgrades in the district during its meeting Monday night and welcomed five new staff members.

Both high school and elementary students will have new access to iPad HD tablet computers this school year.

“As the tech director I’m not just all about getting technology into the classroom,” said Library and Technology Director Mary Hook. “I want to know what the purpose of this technology is going to be before we purchase it and I want to make sure we make the decision on what the tool is going to be based on the educational value of putting it into the classroom.”

Hook noted that she had worked to get a group of teachers together over the summer to discuss what type of mobile technology would best work in Manistique schools. The iPads were selected to be used at both the elementary and middle/high school.

“They put great thought into their plan so I think it will be successful,” said Hook.

At Emerald Elementary each third grade student will receive their own iPad to use at school during the year. Third grade teachers Colleen Hoholik and Cyndi Hoholik will be using the iPads to grow students in a variety of academic areas including math, science, social studies, and language arts.

“They are not taking them home, they are leaving them in the classroom,” said Emerald Elementary Principal Erik Mason. “That way they can charge over night and if there are any updated apps that the teachers or Mary Hook downloads they will be downloaded on there for them.”

At the middle and high school levels the iPads will be used for both general technology education and education aimed at improving the skills of struggling students.

“We have 60 of them on their way … We’ll be using a bunch of them, a group of them, to address math deficiencies and English language arts deficiencies,” said Middle/High School Principal John Shiner.

“The other batch will be used for rotating labs in which general lab work such as presentation software, online projects, collaboration tools, information visualization tools, podcasts, academic games, and teaching with tablets,” added Shiner.

The board also discussed upgrading the technology of the schools’ phone system which is outdated and parts are no longer being produced to make repairs.

“They don’t manufacture parts for it anymore so we’re just kind of riding it (out),” said Hook. “Plus, I think it’s by 2015 we have to be E911 compliant which means that if somebody picks up a phone in the classroom and dials 911 the dispatch knows exactly what room in what building the call is coming from.”

Upgrading the current phone system to be E911 compliant would cost the district approximately $8,000. However, because the system is outdated, the district is exploring voice over internet protocol, also known as VoIP, systems to replace the current system.

Like the phone system, parts are no longer being manufactured for the fire suppression system in the buildings. To address this, the board approved a contract with Integrated Designs Inc. of Marquette for a replacement system. The projected cost of the new system is $175,000.

“The technology has changed a lot in 38 years from when this building was built,” noted Maintenance Supervisor Randy Watchorn.

Currently, sprinklers are only activated by heat. New systems would include smoke detectors and strobe lights to alert people with hearing disabilities in the case of fire.

The board also welcomed four new teachers during the meeting. Hired at the high school were teachers Tiffany Green, Spanish; David Winkel, math; and Jeremy Connin, band and multi-tier system of support. The elementary gained one first grade teacher, Suzanna Juip.

Also hired during the meeting was Special Education Director Jeanne Verbrigghe. Verbrigghe will be functioning in an administrative capacity overseeing special education in the district, but will not provide therapy or teaching instruction directly.