Education Fund Board approves Routt County school district grant requests totaling $2.5 million

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Grant requests approved by the Education Fund Board

Steamboat Springs School District: $2.1 million

Academic excellence: $1.15 million (includes $875,000 for 15 staff members to maintain smaller class sizes, $177,332 for the English language learners program and $100,000 for gifted and talented)

Technology hardware: $356,249

Literacy coaches: $150,000

Network: $225,800

Professional development: $50,000

Software: $121,500

Technology training: $30,000

North Routt Community Charter School: $32,500

Expeditionary learning program: $32,500

Hayden: $106,619

Tech support: $40,371

Software licensing: $12,463

Middle school interventions: $17,969

Auxiliary lab computers: $15,816

Secondary tablets: $10,000

Elementary tablets: $10,000

South Routt: $132,000

Technology: $132,000 (includes $60,000 for network, $50,000 for hardware and $22,000 for software)

Collaborative: $80,000

Grant writer: $80,000

Community groups: $70,000

Yampatika: $10,000

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps: $20,000

Partners in Routt County: $40,000

Total: $2.5 million

— The Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board on Wednesday night approved its 2013-14 budget after giving its final support to all grant requests from Routt County’s three school districts.

The majority of the grant requests passed with little discussion and unanimous support, with the exception of a $10,000 request for tablets at secondary schools in Hayden School District.

The request was approved, 6-3, with board President Kristi Brown, Vice President Roger Good and Grant Commission representative Glenn Airoldi dissenting.

Good had concerns about the need for tablets at the secondary level and questioned what they would be used for.

“In the past when we’ve approved tablets, we approved them for specific purposes,” he said. “When we buy PCs ... we know how they’re going to be integrated into the curriculum because we know the software that’s going to be on it.”

Despite joining Good among the dissenting votes, Airoldi questioned whether it was the role of the Fund Board to restrict the types of hardware the districts request.

“Whether they’re desktops or laptops, it’s hardware that allows us to further curriculum,” Airoldi said.

Good supported the $10,000 grant request for tablets at the elementary level in Hayden, saying his research indicated there are about twice as many apps available for preschool and middle school learning as there are for high school.

He said high school apps primarily fall within the math, science, history and language subjects and suggested that each department leader within those subjects get a tablet and research available educational apps next school year before moving forward with a larger request.

“I think $10,000 is an awful lot of money if you don’t know what you’re going to use it for,” he said.

Steamboat and South Routt Technology Director Tim Miles called the tablets tools for the educational process and said purchasing apps for tablets is much less expensive than purchasing software for computers. Another benefit, he said, was that a smaller investment is required for what he called “experimental software updates,” which would allow staff members to test the apps before deciding whether to invest in them further.

Technology requests for the Steamboat and South Routt school districts were approved conditionally with the expectation that spreadsheets would be provided with revised line-item information because the request totals were reduced by a combined $109,421 after the first readings.

After concerns from Miles about being able to predict costs accurately for the Steamboat hardware request, Grant Commission representative Dean Massey said the commission had suggested each line item be given a 15 percent variance so long as the grant total did not exceed the approved amount. The item was added as a condition to the approved technology requests.

The only other grant request the board discussed at length was Steamboat’s request for $150,000 to fund literacy coaches. The request passed with unanimous support; however, Good questioned why the focus was on literacy when Steamboat schools score well above state averages in that area.

Good suggested the district consider math or science coaches because its scores in those subject areas are lower.

“One of the reasons we focus on the literacy coach is because reading is that basic skill that permeates everything we do,” Steamboat Superintendent Brad Meeks said.

Good noted that the district was “doing extraordinarily well with literacy before the literacy coaches were requested” and questioned how the board would know when the investment had paid off.

Massey agreed.

“I’m concerned with these things becoming perpetual funding machines rather than goal oriented,” he said.

In other action

The board voted unanimously to approve the applications of Jay O'Hare for a two-year term on the Fund Board as well as Tina Kyprios and Barbara Winternitz for two-year terms on the Grant Commission.

The board will discuss at its June 5 meeting a $15,000 grant request from Hayden School District for laptop computers and mobile carts. The request was submitted this week.

To reach Nicole Miller, call 970-871-4246 or email nmiller@SteamboatToday.com

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