September 12, 2012 - Clarkston High School's cafeteria and performing arts center are set for wireless connection to the Internet.
"By having limited wireless capability in the high school, we can expand learning opportunities for our students," said Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock.
Clarkston School Board Trustee Rosalie Lieblang tried to put the brakes on the $15,000 purchase at an Aug. 27 special meeting, making a motion to postpone purchase and place the wireless-technology item on the next meeting's agenda.
"I asked several times during the budgetary process about technology upgrades and was told we weren't doing it," Lieblang said. "Now, we are doing it."
Trustee Susan Boatman agreed the purchase wasn't discussed during budget hearings in June.
Technology presentations at the June 11 and 25 meetings focused on a future $1.6 million, district-wide infrastructure upgrade project, which would be needed before wireless technology could be installed.
Lieblang pointed to the district's purchasing policy, which says the board "should be advised, for prior approval, of all purchases of equipment, materials, and services when the purchase was not contemplated during the budgeting process." However, the motion was defeated, 3-3.
Once the budget is approved, administrators are empowered to spend the funds as they see fit, said board Vice President Elizabeth Egan.
"We approved the budget – postponing this acquisition seems nonsensical," Egan said.
Treasurer Steve Hyer said he was uncomfortable with the discussion, as it was not on the agenda.
"I see no need to second guess administration," Hyer said. "The purchasing process is in the hands of very capable people – there is a need for this."
When asked later if the purchase was to facilitate the upcoming Project Zero Conference, Dr. Rock said, "While it is true that the Project Zero conference may benefit from the presence of wireless technology at CHS, so does the entire community when using CHS as well as our entire staff during Professional Development days."
The purchase is consistent with the district's Strategic Plan, in the wake of the defeat of the proposed $20 million school bond last May, he said.
"Since last May's election, we have re-evaluated our strategy for providing wireless access to the students and staff who could make the best direct use of it," he said.
Students will use the wireless access to pursue online courses using their own devices, he added.
"Even though access is extremely limited, it allows high school students to experience the type of environment they will encounter in college," he said. "We will continue to explore means with our school board and community to meet our biggest challenges—updating our educational infrastructure."
The location of the wireless routers is not set in stone, he said.
"For now the devices are somewhat portable," he said. "However, the plan is for district and building staff to work together to determine the most appropriate locations for wireless access at the building."
Project Zero Conference, Nov. 1-3, will bring 1,000 educators from around the world to Clarkston.
"We are very excited about the Project Zero Conference," Rock said. "This is an amazing opportunity for our school district – we are the first public school district in the world to host a Project Zero Conference."
Clarkston teachers will get to hear from the world's leading thinkers as it directly relates to our district's vision, mission, and learner profile, he said.
Parents are invited to the conference on Saturday, Nov. 3. On Nov. 1, parents have an opportunity to visit classrooms and see teachers and students engaged in a Culture of Thinking.
"We're hopeful that the community will also get involved with the conference," Rock said.
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.