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School board to review Apple lease

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — When it comes to the district’s lease on devices, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Central office staff plans to recommend that the school system stay the course with its lease of Apple, Inc. devices at Monday’s Board of Education meeting.

Staff gave the recommendation at the board’s Jan. 10 budget workshop. This time, they’ve come back with numbers. The district plans to order approximately 23,390 devices, including teacher and teacher assistant laptops and iPads. According to the agenda, that’s 466 fewer devices than were leased in 2014.

Renewal of the three-year lease is expected to cost a total of $14.6 million, with $3 million of that comprising a down payment. According to the agenda, the board would pay off the remaining $11.6 million with annual payments of approximately $3.8 million for the next three years.

According to the agenda, staff considered several other suppliers, including ThinkPad, Chromebook and Microsoft Surface. Of the options, the iPad Air has a retail price of $399 per device, compared to a Chromebook’s $360 and the Microsoft Surface’s $749. The system received a negotiated price of $999 for each MacAir laptop, compared to the ThinkPad’s $859.

Switching formats, however, would have had a significant impact and required additional training, as well as the purchase of new accessories and software management systems. The agenda does note that purchasing new iPads will also mean purchasing new cases.

While the upfront cost is higher, the agenda notes, the devices also retain a higher residual value than competitors, and would eliminate the conversion of equipment and infrastructure. Should it be renewed, the lease will run until 2020.

The board is expected to vote on the issue at its Feb. 13 work session.

Monday’s business meeting will be held in the Wallace Educational Forum boardroom, 500 N. Main St. at 5 p.m. Public comment begins at 6 p.m.

In other business, the board:

  • Will consider a restart model for North Rowan community schools. The restart model, as approved by the state, could allow eligible schools in the North district to have a similar flexibility to charter schools, while remaining under the control of the local Board of Education. North High and North Middle were two of thirteen schools to meet state eligibility for restart. When staff presented the proposal on Dec. 12, North High was recommended as a pilot school.
  • Discuss the construction of a capital needs committee. Staff have recommended that the committee comprise members of the Joint Planning Committee, an assistant superintendent and four staff members, one leadership representative from each county municipality, three individuals selected by the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce and one board-selected parent, active community member and school staff member from each board seat district.
  • Consider allowing students at West Rowan Middle School to participate in virtual learning during inclement weather. School officials cited the recent success of allowing teachers to work from home during inclement weather as an example of how successful a virtual learning day could be thanks to the one-to-one initiative. Extending the same privilege to students, the proposal concludes, is the next logical step.
    Students would be expected to work for approximately 6 hours and to communicate with the teacher during that time in addition to completing assignments issued for that day as well as any late assignments. Parents would be encouraged to monitor their student’s work throughout the day.
  • Review a state-funded bonus for advanced placement and IB teachers, teachers with industry and certifications credentials and third-grade reading teachers. According to the agenda AP and IB teachers may receive a bonus of $50 for each student who receives a 3 or above in an AP exam or 4 or above for an IB exam for a maximum bonus of $2,000 per year. Teachers providing industry and certification credentials may receive $25 or $50 for each student that attained an industry certification or credential determined by industry for a maximum of $2,000 per year. The state has allotted $5 million for the top 25 percent statewide of third-grade teachers based on their students’ state-approved growth scores. Another $5 million is approved statewide for the top 25 percent of third-grade teachers in each district. Teachers must meet certain requirements to qualify for each.
  • Discuss the planning process to create a new strategic plan.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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