$38 Million Bond Proposal for TPS Technology
Tulsa Public Schools shared the details of a proposed technology and school security bond at last night’s meeting of the TPS board. Called the 2013 SMART & SECURE SCHOOLS bond, the prospective $38 million bond would focus on improving classroom technology and infrastructure, as well as installing fire sprinklers in 11 buildings and upgrading school security systems district-wide. The 2013 Bond Development Committee, co-chaired by Rachel Maze and Rodger Randle, unanimously recommended to the TPS board that the district proceed with the proposed bond. The board is expected to vote on the committee’s recommendation on Monday, March 4.
"Our children need to be given every advantage to succeed in an increasingly digital world," said Dr. Keith Ballard, Superintendent. "We want to give our students every opportunity to become competent in the use of technology, as their college and career readiness will very much depend upon it. Given the large number of our students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, we have the opportunity to bridge the digital gap by providing teachers and children with the tools they need to be successful. We know our students aren’t performing at acceptable levels in math and reading. While technology is never a replacement for having an effective teacher in every classroom, we know that great teachers can leverage technology to improve student achievement."
According to the U.S. Department of Education and recent studies by the National Training and Simulation Association, technology-based instruction can reduce the time students take to reach a learning objective by up to 80 percent.
One school district – Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina – went almost completely digital five years ago, using laptops and MacBook Air computers districtwide. The district has not purchased a textbook in over five years, with the exception of those required for high school Advanced Placement classes. With the change, graduation rates and test scores are rising. On state tests in reading, math and science, an average of 89 percent of students across grades met proficiency standards in 2012, compared with 73 percent four years ago.
Graduation rates are up 10 percent over four years ago, to 90 percent, and more graduates are attending college, the rate rising 8 percent to 88 percent in 2012.
2013 SMART & SECURE SCHOOLS BOND
Features of the bond that are under consideration:
- The creation of a "standard classroom," with tools that would include a desktop computer; interactive whiteboard with speakers; iPad tablet, a document camera and Internet Protocol TV, all interfacing with the interactive whiteboard; and wireless Internet access. (Art, music, science and other special subject areas will be provided with additional equipment beyond the "standard classroom").
- Classroom computer funds would be distributed at $337 per pupil, to include desktop and laptop computers, with a minimum student-to-computer ratio of 3-to-1. It is the goal of TPS to have no computer over five years old;
- 100% of all desktops and laptops will be compliant with PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) standards;
- Multi-function devices (copiers, printers, scanners and faxes) will be upgraded, with more efficient printing services and functionality;
- All principals and teachers district-wide will have a tablet device and related curriculum for classroom and office use;
- Library ebooks will be purchased for circulation/downloading on to computers and tablets;
- Replacement of district support computers, as well as extending the licenses associated with educational videos and learning materials;
- A new professional development system that will be used to schedule, track and enroll teachers and support staff in professional development classes; and
- Technology infrastructure will be improved, with wireless access at every school site and increased Internet bandwidth based on federal standards.
"It is absolutely critical that we upgrade and add computers district-wide so we can meet the technical requirements needed for standardized testing under Common Core," said Dr. Ballard. "Not only are we lagging behind other neighboring districts, but TPS today does not have the computers and infrastructure required for the implementation of Common Core."
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Other features of the proposed bond include important district-wide safety and security updates:
- Install fire sprinkler systems in all wooden structures that do not currently have them. (There are currently 11 buildings in the district that were constructed from 1910 to 1920, and while they meet all current fire codes, steps can be taken to improve their safety for students and staff);
- Fire sprinkler systems would be added in the following buildings: Burroughs, Eliot, Lanier, Lee, Lombard, Project Accept at Roosevelt, Sequoyah, Springdale, Street School, Tulsa MET at Bryant and the Cherokee building;
- Upgrade the existing fire panels and intrusion alarm panels district-wide. This supports the security system used to monitor fire alarms, smoke detectors, motion detectors and cameras; and
- Provide hardware and materials for the replacement of damaged, destroyed or expired equipment for cameras and door systems.
"Safety is paramount in so many ways," said Dr. Ballard, "and it only takes one fire like the one at Barnard last year to impact the lives of our students, staff and our historic buildings. We pride ourselves on the progress we have made in school safety and security. With a few minor additions, we can ensure that our school environments are the safest they can be."
THE DISTRICT'S BONDING CAPACITY
Tulsa Public Schools currently has a sinking fund rate of 23.45 mills, which is used for the retirement of existing bonds. This is lower than all of the adjacent districts in the Greater Tulsa area, even though TPS has a larger bonding capacity given its size. By approving the 2013 SMART & SECURE SCHOOLS bond, citizens owning a house valued at $100,000 would experience a tax increase in 2014 of $3.38 per month or $40.50 per year.
"We hope parents, teachers and interested Tulsa citizens will come out to one of the three forums to learn the details of this proposed bond initiative," said Dr. Ballard. "After a brief presentation, we will take questions from the floor. We look forward to this important dialogue with the Tulsa community."
Tulsa Public Schools will host two public forums to discuss the possible bond initiative:
- Tuesday, Feb. 26, 6-7 p.m., Education Service Center, 3027 S. New Haven Ave. (in the 1st floor Selman Room)
- Thursday, Feb. 28, 6-7 p.m., East Central High School Auditorium, 12150 E. 11th St.
Members of the 2013 TPS Technology Bond Development Committee are: Rachel Maze and Rodger Randle (co-chairs); Randy Blattner; Ellen Duecker; Eddie Evans; Bob Howard; Susan Harris; Chris Hudgins; Joe Jennings; Bob LaBass; Stacy Loeffler; Charlotte Manning; Dennis Neill; Richard Ryan; Stephan Sargent; Peggy Spillman; Lynn Stockley; Ben Stout; James Stuart; O.C. Walker; Trish Williams and Blaine Young.