The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


March 12, 2013

Richland tables tablets for board members

JOHNSTOWN — Both an item on the Richland school district’s meeting agenda  – whether to purchase iPads for board members – and the paper the agenda was printed on took center stage at the district’s meeting Monday.

But debate about how fast the district should shift to “paperless” meetings prompted the board to table a move to consider buying 10 wireless Apple devices, a $3,790 purchase about which a few board members appeared hesitant even before the matter was officially up for discussion.

It renewed a debate that started last year when the district initially discussed putiting iPads in high schoolers’ hands. That proposal won scaled-back approval afterndiscussion at several meetings.

In the end, the board decided to buy iPads for ninth and 10th graders and try to add the devices for additional grades over the next two years. A few members have continued to question whether the move was worth the approximately $400 per-student expense.

“I’d have a better mind-set about this if I saw how they were being used.

“Curriculums. Lesson plans,” said board member Anthony Rizzo, who has continuously expressed reservation about the move.

The board was was given survey results Monday from questionnaires given to students and faculty about the usefulness of the iPads. Most students reported using the devices daily, and most teachers who responded embraced iPads and laptops in the classroom.

There was initial, brief board discussion about expanding the iPad offering to board members a month ago, but the agenda item was never formally discussed Monday night. Instead, board President Michael Bodolosky tabled it after fellow members hotly debated whether to continue having meeting documents mailed to them twice a month  or to post them securely on the district’s website.

“I just think we’re rushing into this,” board member Tim Warshel said.

He held up his board packet, showing it cost $2.37 to send.

“It adds up,” Bodolosky countered, saying the item on the table was about whether or not to go paperless, not buying iPads, the agenda item below it.

He said the board could go paperless with or without the iPads, allowing the district to save on ink, toner and paper costs. It also would free up secretaries from having to print, staple and gather agendas, finance reports and correspondence for mailing, he said.

But board member Ray McCombie and others questioned how much would be saved. They asked Superintendent Thomas Fleming to come up with figures estimating typical monthly mailing costs - even after approving a motion to “move toward” paperless meetings.

They also asked administrators to check to see if there are any extra iPads that members might be able to use on a trial basis. Both matters are expected to be revisited next month, district officials said.

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