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Schools See a Surplus, But When and Where to Spend Remains to be Seen

Departing superintendent recommends that $255,000 overage be used to pay off phone lease early, however some are asking for more caution before money is spent.

Superintendent Dr. Joe Schroeder credited Business Director Scot Ecker and Coordinator of Pupil Services Ted Gennerman for netting the district $90,000 in reimbursements related to special education services the district provides.

The savings was added to those from utilities, which came in under budget by about $165,000, realizing a surplus of $255,000. Schroeder said the dollars could be put into the district's fund balance, but instead requested that $140,000 of it pay off their phone lease early.

"In doing so, we would be pre-paying off this lease-to-own financial obligation and position the district to realize anticipated interest savings," Schroeder explained in a memo to the board. "More importantly, this would open up approximately $70,000 in the district technology budget on an annual basis so that we can better support and sustain innovation designed to deeply engage every learner and advance our strategic plan."

Schroeder said the ultimate goal was to advance the personalization and customization of learning through technology. In a classroom setting, those who are struggling would receive more one-on-one attention, while others who are excelling can use online tools to deepen their research into a topic.

Others on the board wanted more assurances, however.

"We talk about investing in technology, but as we are so data-driven, I'm wondering if all this investment in computers and laptops is making a difference in our students," said board member Dean Strom.

Schroeder said numerous studies have been done and overall the ability to use computers to address individual learning styles, and also to add graphics and other tools, enhances students' ability to learn. He also felt that technology was only becoming more integrated in the future.

"I believe that it will be a part of the District's five-year plan to enhance and personalize learning. This is a way to harness technology to meet students at their readiness," he said.

However uncertain state aid had others feeling more cautious about committing the dollars right now.

"I would rather wait, and I'd rather be more cautious until we know more what we will have to work with as we get closer to a final budget," said Mike Serdynski.

Ultimately the board decided to defer the decision until its next meeting later in June, as the payment is not due until July 1.

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