Board of Education says increased tax revenue will fund technology, security upgrades

With one Board member voting no, the Park Hill Board of Education last week approved a measure placing a 32-cent levy increase on the April 8 ballot. 

Superintendent Dr. Scott Springston presented the Board with a possible plan and time line for funding of its Future Learners Project (FLiP) and other initiatives. The levy increase would fund not only the FLiP program, which upon final roll-out would give one-to-one daily computer access to each student in the district beyond elementary school, but also would fund security upgrades. Last year, the district underwent a safety and security evaluation, which recommended upgrades such as the establishment of one secure entrance to the district high schools. If the 32-cent increase is approved by voters, the average 2014 cost to owners of a $200,000 home in the district would be $37. The district would phase in the increase as needed over several years, with full implementation not expected until the 2017-18 school year. “We’ve been on a three-year journey to get to this point tonight,” Springston said, with the district working to prepare students for the world with current technology. Springston said this ballot initiative would set the district’s tax levy ceiling, but the Board would not necessarily set the levy at the full 32-cent increase. “The Board has a history of not going to the ceiling – we have a history of taking only what we need,” said Board President Susan Newburger. Board members pointed out that it was an important distinction that this increase would set the ceiling, which would give future boards room for adjustments. Board member Todd Fane said the increase wasn’t simply about funding the purchase of hardware, as an investment had also been made in professional development. This marked a turning point in education, he believed, moving toward more personalized education plans for each student. Newburger said that was what she felt made FLiP different, as most neighboring districts that have initiated one-to-one computer programs give the students the laptops or tablets without truly changing their teaching methods. During the public comments portion of the meeting, patron Jackie Cox asked to see statistical data showing that a levy increase would be the best decision for the district. This was a sentiment shared by Board member Chris Seufert. “I think I’m in a different place than the rest of the Board,” he said. “I’ve given this a lot of thought over the last few months and I think the data on FLiP is preliminary, and while it is positive, it’s not all positive.” He said the district had yet to develop an assessment tool to gauge the success of the program, and while it was under development it wasn’t yet ready.