County eyes $1.2M for school computers

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Budgeting nearly $1.55 million for schools, with almost $1.2 million of that for computers and related equipment is being recommended by the Education Committee of the Marshall County Commission.

The capital improvement proposal was recommended Monday night after a county commission workshop when Suzanne Ingram, the system's technology director, explained what would be purchased and why.

"If we can spend $2 million on a football field, surely we can find $1 million for technology," Commissioner Jennifer Harris told the commission.

A fraction of a percent of students go on to play professional sports, Harris said. However, nearly 80 percent of graduates today land jobs in which they must use computers.

County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett endorsed Ingram's request after noting growing the competition in today's global economy.

"We're going to have to play ball or sit on the bench," Liggett said.

Ingram reported that for every five Marshall County students, there is one computer available. The statewide average is 3-1.

About $445,000 of the $1.2 million for computer equipment would buy 281 laptop computers for teachers and 280 desktop computers for students.

The balance of the $1,198,967 proposal would include: $170,500 for flat panel display screens, $154,000 for projectors, $120,000 for infrastructure such as servers, $22,200 for cables and surge protectors and $75,000 for computer lab tables.

Commissioner Seth Warf wanted to know how soon the equipment could be installed and Ingram said the infrastructure is needed now. Installation could be completed by July. As a capital improvement project, the proposal is not part of the school system's operating budget that is assembled in the spring for a fiscal year from July 1 through June 30 of the next year.

Because of computers and related technology, the method of teaching has changed to include presentations on display screens instead of chalkboards, Ingram said.

"I thought technology was computers," Harris confirmed after a recent visit to several schools. "Teachers have remote controls" to present information quickly in ways that are different from how classes have been taught.

The Education Committee is also recommending four other capital projects.

A $126,000 roof replacement is needed over the agriculture shop, office and library at Cornersville School.

At Forrest School: $89,000 is recommended to repair the bleachers in the basketball gym; $57,750 is recommended to enlarge the bleachers' capacity; and $84,000 is recommended for pavement that's required as a result of last year's construction.

The recommendations total $1,555,725 and are being forwarded to the county's Budget Committee that meets during the week before each monthly meeting of the county commission.