Archive for Thursday, August 11, 2011

USD 348 Superintendent pleased with fingerpring technology results

August 11, 2011

Thirty-six percent of Baldwin High School and Baldwin Junior High School students will pay for their school lunches this year with their fingertips.

The Baldwin Board of Education voted 4-3 this summer to pass a food service biometric fingerprint identification system. This would allow junior high and high school students to have their fingerprint scanned to charge money to their lunch accounts instead of using a card.

The students have to opt-in to the program, with the parents signing a form that states they want their child in the program. So far, Baldwin Superintendent Paul Dorathy said 290 students have opted-in to the program, and students can be added to the system at any time. Those who are not signed up for the fingerprint system will use a lunch card as in previous years.

Dorathy said having an opt-in status was the best way to implement the program.

“If it would have been any other way, I’m not sure it would have passed the board,” Dorathy said. “I think if it had been in and opt-out, that you had to let us know if you didn’t want your child in there, I think they would have said no and I think to just do it in general for every kid would have never passed. And I’m not sure we should have been doing it that way.”

Dorathy said one of the main concerns with the school board about the system was security and whether using fingerprints was necessary. Director of food service Julie Henry said the fingerprint system had better protection than a card because it prevents cards from being lost or stolen.

“From the standpoint of somebody else using a kid’s lunch account, it absolutely is going to be a more secure option,” Henry said.

Other school districts in Kansas and nationally have moved to the fingerprint system, and Henry said she spoke to other food service directors that have used the program. Many loved it but others did not, and Henry said the outcome depends on the system used and how long ago it was in place.

“It’s not always comparing apples to apples,” Henry said. “If they’re using Power Lunch and using a fingerprint identification system, their scanner might be different. The way it works might be slightly different. So their outcome might be slightly different than somebody that uses the exact system that we do.”

Baldwin uses the food service system Meal Tracker, which runs a fingerprint identification system. The school system bought three fingerprint scanners, two for the high school and one in the junior high, and the software for a one-time fee of about $900. Henry said it was really not a very expensive program and the food service budget had enough added funds, so it was decided to give this convenience to the students while they could.

Some school districts have also had the fingerprint program at the elementary level, but Baldwin has decided to keep it at the junior high and high school levels for now. Dorathy said it doesn’t mean the elementary school might not use it in the future.

“What we were advised by the company, the fingerprint scanner company, was that the younger children change,” Dorathy said. “Their growth is so rapid that their fingerprint kind of changes over time and a fingerprint that might have been good at the beginning of the year is not the same at the end of the year with a first-grader.”

Dorathy was pleasantly surprised with the amount of students signed up for the fingerprint program, and he will continue to judge how the system works throughout the year.

“As long as we’ve got these kind of numbers, 30 percent of our students wanting to use it, I think we’ll continue to do it,” Dorathy said. “If that number drops down considerably lower over time, then yeah we may decide that it wasn’t worth doing, but right now, it appears we have quite a few interested parents.”

Comments

Stacy Napier 3 years, 2 months ago

What a complete waste of money. It was touted for security of students lunch accounts. Really They can't remember 300 and 400 students in each school by their faces? What is the cost for the meal tracker and easypay service. The whole system is not just $900. There is a yearly service fee. But hey this school has plenty of money for fancy systems and fluff.

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1776attorney 3 years, 2 months ago

A complete waste of taxpayer money for sure. A piece of paper with the names of students and their lunch account information would have worked just fine. (Cost = 10 cents) Seriously, there are not that many students. The opportunity of an unknown student passing through the line is absolutely nil. This is all about poor administrator decisions and administrator wish-list purchases.

The more money any government entity receives, the more money it spends. It is like a voracious money-eating beast. The more taxpayer funds it demands, the more brazen and stupid the spending decisions become. (And insulting to taxpayers.)

When this happens, it is ALWAYS because of bad management, nanny-state political and cultural philosophies, outright stupidity or disdain for taxpayers. The readers can choose their own reasons.

How about the school district spending over $10,000 for student iPads ? (And possibly many, many more in the future.) However warm, fuzzy and nice electronic textbooks might be, they are not necessary in the worst double dip recession in US history with 30% of taxpayers unemployed or under-employed (earning less than their normal career field). There are approximately 15+ homes in foreclosure just within a 1 mile radius of the schools (and thus no longer paying property taxes either).

This school district, if properly managed, should have economized during an economic downturn. That is smart, competent management. You then expand (wisely) only during economic good times.

The schools are for learning- hard learning and teaching, not for extravagant, fluffy and wild technology purchases. Writing, math, reading, science - the keys to life success.

How "out of wack" is the thinking at USD 348? Every family and business in the USA is economizing, budgeting and hoping to be able to pay just their living expenses. USD 348 is spending stretched taxpayer monies on unnecessary, outrageous and insulting luxuries that have little to do with actual hard teaching.

Close the school libraries, fire the librarians and dump all the students (and costs) into the overstretched city library system. Fire teachers and close the rural schools all in the name of saving money, then go on wild technology purchases, administrator travel to conferences and new sports teams.

Does this really sound like competent, smart, professional management of a school district? There is no excuse, reasoning or justification that can explain-away this mismanagement and duping of taxpayers.

My concern are the taxpayers, the fixed-income retired folks and lower income families, who are being over-run, hoodwinked and have no input or voice in these matters. I have no horse in the parade other than a real disgust of bad management, out of control government entities and abuse of hard earned taxpayer monies.

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hyperinflate 3 years, 2 months ago

Keep in mind, Paul wants all of you to believe that he is spending less money in the upcoming year, but if you take the time to look at what was published it represents about a 3% increase in the Local Option Budget. More money to spend! While no one bothers to pay attention (especially the clueless new members of the School Board), he just continues to burn through our property taxes like they were gifted to him.

No one can say he isn't smart. He is. He's just counting on you all to be stupid and ignorant. Oh, and speaking of gifts, he got the previous School Board to give him 3 more years of a $108,000+ salary on your dime. Enjoy!

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mellowyellow 3 years, 2 months ago

I believe the iPads were bought with grant money and not out of the school budget.

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1776attorney 3 years, 2 months ago

Thanks for your comment, mellowyellow.

With all due respect, grant money does not fall off a money tree. It is still taxpayer funds. The same taxpayers subsidizing the government, different government entity throwing the tax money around. It all starts out of the same pockets.

It's all about priorities and smart management. Sadly, the track record (and public opinion) of the current superintendent and previous school board is / was less than stellar.

If you can show me the grant was from private sources, then I'll stand corrected.

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mellowyellow 3 years, 2 months ago

I understand what you are saying, but you misrepresented that all the technology was coming from the school budget.

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hyperinflate 3 years, 2 months ago

But what 1776 pointed out was the wanton, wasteful technology spending in the district. Did you know that the salaries for the IT staff account for over a quarter of a million dollars per year? Of course, it's not surprising since it's a family affair. The School Board Clerk who is great buddies with Paul makes sure that her relative is quite nicely taken care of in this arrangement.

You wanna tell me that over a quarter of a million dollars per year in technology salaries is necessary to ensure children can read, write, calculate math problems, and learn to think?

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mellowyellow 3 years, 2 months ago

I believe that school employees' salaries are public record. Anyone can look any school employee's salary. Big news. Not. As I stated before, I do understand the frustrations in the community. Just make sure you have all the facts. You're certainly entitled to your opinions. Isn't it great that we have this forum to maturely discuss them?

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Stacy Napier 3 years, 2 months ago

Ok,

How about the now two different call notification systems for parents they use. Now I get two seperate calls one to work and one home about what day enrollment was and I and my wife got an email with a link to the same message. Do we really need 2 call systems to call me at 5:30 am only to tell me that there is no school because of snow and I could have slept in. I am sure that my child would have figured that out on her own.

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mellowyellow 3 years, 2 months ago

Our school gave us the choice of getting called or not. I think they got a new company to make the calls this year. You should be able to opt out if you don't want a call ever.

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Stacy Napier 3 years, 2 months ago

Yes but the point is we don't need it. save the money.

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mellowyellow 3 years, 2 months ago

Interesting point. They used to use calling trees to notify staff. Parents had to wait for the radio or TV to announce school closings. Maybe this is more efficient thus cost effective? How much does it cost?

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