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6-25-14

School not likely to seek another technology tax
Park Hill will explore other options

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark reporter

Will Park Hill School District officials ask voters a second time to support a tax levy increase to fund technological and security enhancements?

The answer to that prevailing question at this point seems to be “probably not.”

Park Hill School District Superintendent Dr. Scott Springston recommends that district officials modify the Future Learning Program, known as FLiP, and then explore new ways to cover the cost associated with the modified implementation of FLiP without increasing the district's tax levy.

This recommendation comes one month after the deployment of two Patron Insight surveys, which solicited feedback from taxpayers and staff members in the district.
Park Hill paid $14,000 to have the two surveys conducted.

The 10-minute phone survey revealed that increasing the district's tax levy by 32-cents to cover the cost associated with evolving from a traditional classroom setting into a 21st century skills classroom where every student has a laptop is undesirable to a majority of Park Hill patrons.

The district says it will continue to move forward in its effort to provide a technology-rich classroom environment.

“It is my recommendation the Park Hill Board of Education authorizes the superintendent to work with staff in the development of options that will augment safety measures and instructional technology within the existing budget authority,” states a June 17, 2014 school board document from Springston.

Staff Online Survey
In April, a majority of voters declined to support a 32-cent tax levy increase. The measure was soundly defeated by voters, with 61 percent opposed to only 39 percent in favor.

This prompted school officials to solicit feedback from the community, as well as staff members as to the reasons for the defeat.

In conjunction with a 10-minute phone survey of residents within the Park Hill School District, a comparable online survey was administered to staff members in the district. The online survey emailed out to district employees surveyed 442 staff members, including approximately 255 certified staff members, 127 classified staff members, and 22 that held an administrative title.

Thirty-eight staff members deferred from answering the question.

Results of the online survey conducted in May indicated that 49 percent of staff members agreed with the statement that “the proposal seemed like a lot to spend for what it would actually mean to students in the classroom, if it had passed.”

Thirty-nine percent of staff participants disagreed with that statement.

When asked was “the cost too high” 50 percent of survey participants agreed with the statement, while just 37 percent disagreed.

Those results, obviously, show a great deal of district employees believed the overall transition into a 21st century skills classroom came at an expensive price tag.

Merely 11 percent of those surveyed indicated running the “exact same proposal again” should be the district's next step.

According to a final report, “several staff online survey respondents said, in their comments about why the levy was defeated, that they would have liked to have an option on this question to say, “don't run it again.”

Now, Superintendent Dr. Scott Springston suggests the district “listen to this feedback from our community” and suggests modifying the rate at which it increases technology in the classroom.

District officials plan to explore ways to carry out the district's goals beyond increasing the district's tax levy plans.

Following a recent modification, the district plans on spending $961,740 on digital devices during the 2014-2015 school year, according to a cost summary document dated June 17, 2014.

During the upcoming school year, the district has budgeted $493,200 on the licensing of digital devices, $102,960 on cost associated with SmartBoards, $46,854 on infrastructure capacity, and $780,000 on information technology staffing.

Additionally, the district projects to spend $630,000 on professional development staffing and $175,000 on training costs associated with technological enhancements during the 2014-2015 school year.