Keeping up with technology
By Robin Scott
During the regular meeting of the Dalhart Independent School Board held Thursday evening, December 17th, Scott Hand, Director of Technology for DISD, presented the DISD Technology Plan for 2010 to 2013 to the board. The plan was unanimously approved, and when implemented, will upgrade the district’s technological ability even more.
Hand stated that he’d be preparing his E-Rate paperwork soon, which is required every three years with updates as needed. E-Rate is the common name for the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, and administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and provides discounts to assist most schools and libraries in the United States to obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access. Every person paying a telephone bill will see an amount paid to the Universal Service Fund.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was the first comprehensive revision of the communications laws of the United States in more than 60 years. The universal service section of the law was designed to help schools and libraries obtain access to state of the art services and technologies at discounted rates. E-Rate funding allows DISD to provide state-of-the-art technology.
The DISD board members unanimously approved the Plan, and Hand noted, “I have to have approval before I can file my first form for the E-Rate cycle for this year.” Hand met with each of the campuses and asked the principals to put together committees to determine upcoming needs. Hand stated, “The committees were a good cross section of teachers and staff from each campus. They all had good ideas, which gives me a pretty good idea of where I need to go in the next few years.”
Currently, DISD’s computer to student ratio is 2.8 students per computer. Hand noted, “Five years ago, it was four to one, so it is much improved.” He added, “We will be getting closer to two to one by the end of the year.” With the stimulus funds, more computers will get purchased. We can start to spend stimulus money after the New Year.” Hand also noted that the State wants each school in Texas to have a computer to student ratio of one to one, and he stated, “We have a ways to go.”
In the next E-Rate cycle, Hand stated that he would apply for twice the amount of Internet bandwidth than what the district has currently. He has plans in the works and has talked with representatives with XIT. He stated, “Every day that goes by there is another curriculum that comes out and is available over the Internet, so that need is only going to grow.”
DISD has 24 servers, 164 telephone lines and 21 cell phones, all to make communications better within the district. The number of computers and laptops is at over 825 and over 140 printers. Hand commented, “We run the largest network by far here in town.” He also noted, “The elementary campus is where we are the furthest along and those teachers seem to just love it.”
Between grant money, E-Rate and stimulus funds, Hand creatively keeps the district as current as possible technologically. He noted, “Through E-Rate we have always gotten more than $40,000 a year. It really helps.” He also stated, “I’ve been paying $19,000 for our Internet access and the government pays a 77 percent reimbursement, which is really good, and it saves our taxpayers. That’s the good thing.”
Along with Hand in the technology department of DISD is Sherri Garcia, who does all of the district’s computer repairs. Hand stated, “She came in as an average, every day user, but has gained the skill to do all of the repairs herself, and she does a wonderful job.”
According to Hand, DISD will slowly try to move us to a more paperless environment. That transition will largely be made possible because of E-Rate funding and stimulus funds. Delbert Dodds, DISD Business Manager, noted, “We did as much technology upgrades as we could with the stimulus money. The mini computers (net books) are an example. We have to spend it, then we get reimbursed.”
Present at Tuesday’s school board meeting were Board President Jeff Lloyd, board members Russell Routon, Doug Claborn, Rick Dunham, Misty Mellema and Gary Schniederjan. Also present were DISD Superintendent David Foote and principals David Steele, Carolyn Field and Mark McCormmick. DHS Vice Principal Denise Hutchison and Caroline Methvin, Director of Curriculum/Instructor, were also in attendance.
To contact Scott Hand with questions about DISD technology, call 244-7210. For more information about E-Rate, visit www.usac.org.