At the Tuesday, Feb. 16 meeting of the Independent School District 318 Board, Rochelle VanDenHeuvel delivered the quarterly technology report. The assistant superintendent said that the district has been doing Optional Learning Assessment (OPLA) testing at the grade school level on iPads and Mac Books. Testing was going very well in comparison to last year. All 4th graders have iPads and she added that some 3rd graders have iPads and that all 3rd graders would have access to the devices next year.
At the middle school, VanDenHeuvel said that white boards were being replaced by larger televisions. She added that two new digital displays had been added to the commons area. Fifth and 6th graders currently have IPads and that 7th and 8th graders will be getting them next year. VanDenHeuvel said that OPLA testing was also being conducted at the middle school on IPads and Mac Books.
All grades at the high school now have IPads. She said that staff is looking at ways to improve the set-up, distribution and recovery of the units.
VanDenHeuvel then turned the microphone over to Technology Coordinator T.J. Russell to talk about the work being done behind the scenes on the district’s core network and the District 318 network.
Russell referenced a 2015 assessment that was performed on the district’s network. The assessment showed that the district had a robust network, but that there was still room for improvement.
Testing on electronic devices exposed bottlenecks in the district’s systems, including one at the high school. Russell said that the initial solution to the problem was to increase the capacity of the pipe going into the high school by ten-fold. The increase in capacity going into the high school did not completely solve the bottleneck, however, because filtering software could not keep pace with the larger volume of data and staff responded by building more capacity into the filter. Filter adjustments exposed still another bottleneck. He said that further scrutiny of the systems showed that the district has only been getting half of the internet access that it was paying for. While the district received a refund for the reduced internet capacity, “It’s one piece after another, after another, but we keep moving forward all of the time making it a little bit better,” he said.
Russell enumerated some of the other things he is working on. He said new backup power had been installed in all of the buildings. He added that the district now has a redundant internet connection which will allow an alternate, albeit slower, connection to the internet if the state’s internet connection goes down. Russell said that a lot of work had been done to the wireless controller to increase capacity and access points for wireless devices. Before calling for questions, Russell said; “We know we’ve got a good network, but we’re not satisfied; we want it to be the best, and that’s where we’re headed.”
Superintendent Bruce Thomas took the opportunity to ask Russell to speak to the efforts to increase security by replicating the high school’s command center at the administration building. Russell responded saying; “Right now we have one command center at the high school which has multiple TVs that give you all of the cameras. We want to replicate that down here because if we have an incident at the high school with the command center at the high school, that’s a big problem.” The second command center would have redundancies built in, as is the goal with the rest of the district’s network.
In other business, the board:
• Accepted four resignations, eight retirements, and four replacement hires.
• Approved the negotiated settlement between ISD 318 and the Director Unit.
• Appointed school board representatives for the 2016 graduation ceremonies.
• Approved the 2106/2017 school calendar.
• Approved the 2017 graduation dates.