By DAVID GREEN
Morenci schools have started to use the remaining funds from the middle school building project, but about $50,000 remains to address various maintenance needs.
When the building project was completed, nearly $70,000 remained in the fund and auditors advised the administration to use the money before the end of the fiscal year.
Money from the fund paid for a security camera at the middle/high school entrance and another at the elementary school. The cameras are functioning correctly for the most part, but certain weather conditions have caused the lens to fog over and strong sunlight has caused backlighting that makes a visitor's face too dark to recognize.
Money was also used to install five internet access nodes to improve WiFi availability in certain areas of the school. One of the five is located in the food service area which will address a problem that teachers experienced during conferences in the cafeteria.
Additional money was used for bus radios and signs.
About $52,400 remains in the fund and the board must decide what needs are the most critical, superintendent Michael Osborne told board members at a Feb. 4 committee meeting. Other maintenance needs will be addressed if voters approve an extension of the existing levy in May.
Bleachers are in need of repairs, Osborne said, but it's not in a critical state requiring closure. Roof work is needed, but this isn't urgent yet, either.
Many technology issues are either currently a problem or on the horizon. One example Osborne gave is the change in state testing procedures beginning in 2014. At that time, school districts are being asked to have tests completed on computers via the internet.
School finance director Erica Metcalf said during a committee meeting Feb. 4 that she was hoping to receive $30,000 from a statewide technology grant to help schools prepare for testing. Instead, the district received $7,200. At this time the district is unable to take tests on-line.
Technology coordinator Hilda Jones told board members that connectivity issues exist from equipment that will soon be 10 years old. The system intermittently shuts down and some ports are not functioning. The backbone of the high school and middle school systems need attention, Jones said.
If the district’s basic technology infrastructure is solid, Jones said, then other related needs can be addressed. Overall technology needs exceed $100,000, Osborne said.
"We need to be very clear soon on how we'll spend the $52,000," he said.
He expects a proposal will be ready for board approval at the March meeting.
TITLE IIa—Osborne said he and superintendents from a consortium that also includes Adrian, Onsted and Hudson are seeking federal Title IIa funding. The purpose of the grants is to increase the academic achievement of all students by improving teacher and principal quality and effectiveness.
Funding is primarily for professional development, Osborne said, and Siena Heights University has expressed an interest in participating.
"In a time that we're looking at reductions," he said, "this is something we could be adding."
ORGANIZATIONAL—For many years Morenci’s board of education has met in early July for its organizational meeting, following the annual school election.
Now that elections are in November, many districts are moving the meeting to January. Osborne suggested retaining the existing board officers and committee assignments and meeting again the following January. The board will have to approve the proposal as a change in by-laws.