Highland News Leader

Technology that replaced the chalkboard could cost Highland schools $440,000 to update

The Highland school district could spend $440,000 to replace boards similar to these.
The Highland school district could spend $440,000 to replace boards similar to these. tvizer@bnd.com

Replacing the Highland School District’s aging interactive whiteboard systems could potentially cost the district as much as $440,000, according to the Highland School District’s Chief Educational Technology Officer Matt Fredericksen.

During his presentation to the Highland School Board at its Jan. 22 meeting, Fredericksen said technology requests were up 45 percent last year. He said there is a vast amount of technology needs across the district, but many of those requests are because of the district’s 74 Promethean boards.

The boards are an interactive whiteboard system that teachers use during instruction. The district started getting the boards in classrooms about 10 years ago. But a lot has changed in technology in the last decade, and the boards are starting to become more of a problem than they are helping, Fredericksen said.

Issues teachers are having include poor setup, faulty communication between the board and its pens, constant recalibration issues, and interference with shadowing from the projector, Federicksen said.

“We are losing a tremendous amount of instructional time,” Fredericksen said.

During the meeting, Fredericksen gave a demo of Promethean’s newest model of interactive whiteboards called the ActivPanel. The model operates more like a giant tablet and does not require a projector, eliminating the shadowing teachers experience with the district’s current model. The board is powered through an external and interchangeable Android-based Mini PC, which allows it to be upgraded as technology changes. The Android device also allows teachers to download a variety of apps, and allows teachers to connect their mobile device screens to the board. The new board also has an option to come with a portable stand and a lowering mechanism to help small students participate.

Fredericksen said the ActivPanel basically provides all of the same functions that teachers are used to, such as interactive touch and writing capabilities. However, he said a major con that may present itself would be a possible change in instruction software, which may be difficult for teachers to learn.

Fredericksen said the 75-inch ActivPanel model he demonstrated costs about $4,400, though he said there is a cheaper model with a 70-inch screen for $3,600.

The $440,000 proposal stated earlier comes includes the stands, which cost $1,400 each, and vertical adjustment mechanism, which cost $750 each, according to Fredericksen. But including the stands and movement device would be based on teacher feedback, he said.

“Most teachers we talked to did not feel the need to have either the stand or the vertical adjustment,” Fredericksen said.

He said the proposal also included a cost for an equipment rack for wire and connected component containment.

At the end of his presentation, Fredericksen said he would look at some other boards to compare to the ActivPanel. He also said he would start gathering feedback from teachers as to what they thought of the ActivPanel. So far, six teachers have seen the new board, Fredericksen said.

“We need to make sure the teachers have a very large voice in choosing this,” he said.

As for the rest of the district’s technology, Fredericksen said the boards were just the tip of the iceberg. Superintendent Mike Sutton agreed and said the School Board needed to start considering options for replacing all of the district’s aging equipment, including Google Chromebooks and laptops at Highland High School.

“There is a lot of communication and discussion that needs to be had,” Sutton said.

Other business

HHS counselors presentation

The counselors from HHS gave a brief presentation over what they are working on at the school and what their jobs entail.

The department chair Mary Jackson spoke about how the school is preparing students for the future college preparation, career planning, dual-credit courses and collaborations with Southwestern Illinois College.

Carrie Lieberman, another HHS counselor, spoke about getting students ready for registration. Lieberman walked the board through their registration schedule. She also outlined when the counselors meet with the different grade levels to make sure students are on track for graduation, taking the classes they need to take, which best suit their needs.

Amber Spaeth presented on how the counselors are helping students emotionally. She said the counselors work to help build self esteem, work on peer relationships, help to resolve conflict, and provide coping methods for anxiety and stress. Spaeth also said the counselors help work through crisis situations and closely communicate with the principal and assistant principal when a student is going through a crisis.

HMS Communication Team presentation

The Highland Middle School Communications Team gave a presentation to the board. This was the team’s first presentation to an audience.

The team has formed every year for the last three years. The students work to communicate all of the operations at the school to groups and organizations within the community. This year, the team is made up of sixth-graders Chloe McTeer and Larissa Taylor, seventh-graders Josh Reed and Cade Altadonna, and eighth-graders Tyler Kutz and Abby Athmer.

The team plans to travel to six organizations over the next three months, visiting two groups per month.

Illinois Science Assessment results

Assistant Superintendent Derek Hacke went over the results from the Illinois Science Assessment that students took in 2016.

“In grade 5, we were about 14 percent over the state average. Grade 8, we were 6 percent above the state average, and at the high school level, we were about 16 percent above the state average,” Hacke said.

Hacke said the results look good, but it just shows results one year of students, across a few levels, two years ago.

“So a one-time snapshot, I’m pleased with that. But I really don’t know exactly what it means, yet,” Hacke said.

Hacke said to accurately get a picture of the results and how the curriculum is preforming, the district will need at least three years of results, if not more. Hacke also said the districts need to learn more about the test, and how it assesses students.

“We need to break it down and see where our strengths were and where our weaknesses were and see what this data looks like over time,” Hacke said.

Hacke also said it will help to get the results in a timely manner.

“Right now, being two years old, nearly two years old, it’s a little bit limited,” Hacke said.

The district will get the results to the science teachers, and grade school teachers to let them review the results. The 2017 Illinois Science Assessment results are expected to be released next month.

PFA grant

Hacke also reported that the district submitted its application for the Preschool for All gran to the Illinois State Board of Education on Jan. 12.

Hacke said the grant provides qualifying 3- to 5-year-olds with free preschool services. Hacke said this is the last year for the grant, and schools and community organizations had to re-compete for the new five-year grant term, which will last through the 2018-2019 school year to the 2022-2023 school year.

Hacke said the notices of award are supposed to be available around April 12.

“Until then, we’re all waiting,” Hacke said.


The board approved the retirement of Diane Paul, a second-grade teacher at Alhambra Primary School, who will retire at the end of the 2020-2021 school year.


The board approved these resignations:

▪  Jason Basso, an English teacher at Highland High School, who effective at the end of the 2017-2018 school year; and

▪  Harold Gillison, a custodian at Highland Primary School, effective Feb. 28.

New staff

The board approved these new staff members:

▪  Brittany Ulmer as the purchasing and transportation clerk for Highland School District;

▪  Jody Durbin as the head track coach at Highland Middle School;

▪  Andrew Gibb-Clark as the spring musical director Highland High School;

▪  Sarah Ivy as a part-time program assistant at Highland Primary School; and

▪  Courtney Seller as the eighth-grade girls softball coach at Highland Middle School.

Change in assignment

The board approved a change of assignment for Katherine Henricks, who moves from program assistant at Highland Middle School to special education teacher at Highland Primary School.

This is a new position necessitated by student needs at the K-2 level, according to Sutton, this move will complete the continuum of services available to students with this narrow set of needs.

The change took effect Jan. 3.

Bair to prepare budget

The board passed a resolution to appoint the district’s Business Manager Timothy Bair to prepare a tentative budget for the 208-2019 fiscal year. Someone must be appointed each year to prepare the budget. Bair is the typical choice.

School calendar approved

The board approved the calender for the 2018-2019 school year. Each year, a calendar committee consisting of teachers in each building and various administrators, discusses dates and procures the calendar.

Megan Braa: 618-654-2366, ext 23, @MeganBraa_