August 15, 2013Hope yet remains for the original proposal of a 10-year technology bond, sold in two or more series, at $48 million, as discussions for placing the bond on November's ballot resurfaced Monday at the Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education regular meeting of the whole.
"Mr. (Brian) Summerfield and I are leaning toward that way," said Dan Roeske, board vice president. "Let the voters decide. That's what our charge is. Our charge is to bring them the proposal that we need to do everything that we want to do and let voters decide based on the merits of the proposal."
The proposal failed last month on a 3-3 tie. Its dissenters — Tom Jakubiec, Cindy Pangborn and Lois Valente — deemed it too costly and argued too many questions were left unanswered regarding sustainability, potential impact on the general fund, and architectural and specification planning.
In response, the technology steering committee met last week and recommended the district wait until the February election, allowing for more due diligence, more time for administration to seek input from community experts, as well as a consultant or unbiased third party, and more time to solidify detailed plans and requests for information for technology vendors and advisors.
Plans for an unbiased third party were included in the original proposal; only, requests were to be completed after the bond vote rather than before as the committee is currently seeking.
"That's what the committee members were proposing," said Joan Dindoffer, board president. "Getting additional information from a consultant though is something that would be an ongoing thing and could occur both before the voters had approved conceptually a bond of up to the $48 million or could be fleshed out with a consultant afterwards."
Dindoffer added that consulting a third party and extending the proposal to February not only denies voters a voice and adds an estimated cost of about $60,000 for the election, it delays implementation of much-needed technology, network and infrastructure upgrades through the next school year.
The delay would be at a time when the district prepares for the computer-based Smarter Balanced assessment test, which will replace the MEAP and MME tests in the 2014-2015 school year. According to director of technology Steve Woloszyn, though the district's equipment met the minimum specifications, it's likely the time allotted to complete the test will be extended, meaning a larger burden on the computers in each schools' computer labs.
"With a lack of devices, or a lack of additional devices such as additional wireless sets or whatever that we can then roll out and allow students more time to complete the testing," Woloszyn said, "it's really going to be a time factor for them to complete their usual classroom work, complete the state mandatory testing and complete the testing that we do for assessments all in the given time of the school year."
The board has an August 26 deadline to submit ballot language for November. It meets Monday, Aug. 19, and again on the 26.
"I'm expecting that we will probably have some additional discussion at one or both of those meetings in August to see where we're going to go," Dindoffer said.
Roeske 's optimistic they're going for a November ballot.
"I'm optimistic that the board may still bring up a ballot language to the community so the community can decide if they want to invest in our schools or not," Roeske said.