Technology, bond issue top items for school district
Although technology upgrades and the looming bond issue vote are signs of progress for the Baldwin School District, it has much more pressing needs right now.
Those concerns also deal with progress, but in the future. Some of those are increasing fuel prices, district maintenance and communication with the community. Supt. Paul Dorathy has his eye on some of those future needs.
"Facilities are our biggest push for this year," Dorathy said. "We will continue to work on technology, too. We will also be working on some organizational things in the maintenance department. That will allow us to do things more efficiently. It's a big goal for us."
Other goals for the upcoming year address some urgent and some long term needs. One of Dorathy's on-going goals for making progress in the district is better communication.
He has helped improve the district's Web site and how information is distributed to the patrons. Now he wants to improve the communication in another way.
"One of our goals is to add more communication in what we are doing," Dorathy said. "We will be adding a key communicators group within the community. I want to get a few people involved that can pass information better by word of mouth."
The district is trying to progress economically, too. Rising fuel prices have caused Dorathy to find ways to save as much as possible during this time of economic hardship.
"We are examining several things to try and save money right now," he said. "One thing we are looking at is all of our field trips and looking at making efficiencies there. Of course, this is all just discussion."
During the past year, the school district has made progress in several areas. Those include technology upgrades, security needs and the financial status. Dorathy outlined those at his second annual State of the District Breakfast in March.
"For those of you that were here last year, you know I spoke of comparisons to 'Test Track,' the ride at Disneyworld, with all of its twists, shimmies and turns," Dorathy said. "This year I can really say it's more like a smoothed-out fast track. We'll leave 'Test Track' behind, literally."
Some of the technology improvements that can be seen are new computers in labs, new laptop computers for teachers at the two Baldwin Elementary Schools and Baldwin Junior High School, 32 projectors for classrooms, ELMO document cameras, smartboards and airliners, which are wireless slates that use the smartboard software
"We've just had an amazing year where we've been able to add a bunch of those," said Steve Hemphill, technology director. "Some schools are putting Smartboards in every room, but I don't see that as being the real goal for us. It appears to maybe be a possibility at the lower elementary level, where the kids can use it."
However, it's the future that many parents and patrons are concerned about. Hemphill and others have a plan for the next couple of years.
"There is a rotation, but it's not school by school," Hemphill said. "I think we've seen that teachers are enjoying having laptops. We still have a couple of schools that don't have laptops for the teachers yet. The high school, Marion Springs and Vinland don't have them yet."
Of course, facility improvements have been a pressing issue during the past year. The district's facilities' committee met for nearly 10 months and gave a recommendation to the school board in March for a possible bond issue.
Since then, the board has accepted the recommendation and put the $22.9 million proposal up for a November election.
"Our job is to inform the public as much as possible," Dorathy said. "In November, the voters will let us know what direction we are heading. Then we will move forward in that same direction."
The $22.9 million bond issue includes a new 480-student Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center and early childhood center. That building would include the BESPC students, the 4-year-old program students, Parents as Teachers organization and possibly Rainbow Experience Preschool.
Also included on the committee's recommendation was a new performing arts center. It would be around 10,000 square feet and would hold around 600 people. Other items are four baseball and softball fields, a practice track and field facility, roof and updated heating and cooling systems at Baldwin Junior High School and technology and security needs.