The West Geauga Board of Education on Monday approved the purchase of Chromebooks to continue the district’s 1-to-1 technology initiative, raises for supervisors, the hiring of a teacher for Chinese language classes and an agreement with University Hospitals of Cleveland sports medicine for athletic training services.

Director of Technology and Operations Sean Whelan updated the board on the district’s ninth-grade pilot program this past school year for take-home Chromebooks equipped with a case and GoGuardian filtering software that blocks the devices from accessing inappropriate or harmful sites. Ninth-graders paid a $50 fee to offset the cost, will continue to pay the fee all four years of high school and then have the opportunity to keep the Chromebook after graduation, Mr. Whelan said.

While the district will reach full 1-to-1 technology for kindergarten through 12th grade beginning in the fall, the pilot program of Chromebooks at the high school are the only devices allowed to go home with students currently.

Overall the program went well in the first year, he said, with approximately 30 out of the 190 devices needing repairs and the majority of damages being screen breakages. Simple fixes were performed by district technicians at no charge, while damage due to neglect was charged to the student per a fee schedule established at the beginning of the year.

Mr. Whelan said the GoGuardian software worked well at alerting the district from everything from popular games that distracted students from school work to serious concerns of students searching for things related to self harm.

“Where we think there’s a suspicion of something, we can have a talk with a student long beforehand and find out what’s really going on so we can intervene. We’ve had a lot of websites that have been blocked in response because of that,” he said. “Chromebooks in cases of repeat offenses could be moved into their own separate locations so that way that device is actually locked down. Conversations and additional supports for students were also put in place by our staff.”

Per Mr. Whelan’s recommendation, the board approved the purchase of Chromebooks, charging carts, cases and GoGuardian licenses for incoming high school freshmen, with sophomores continuing to keep their current devices, at a total cost of $51,268. The continued $50 fee from both freshmen and sophomores should offset the cost by approximately $19,800, bringing the cost directly to the district closer to $31,468, Mr. Whelan said.

The board also approved purchasing new Chromebooks for sixth-graders for $34,746 and fourth-graders for $36,744 as part of the district’s normal replacement cycle as well as for an additional third grade classroom added due to enrollment this year for $4,100. The older devices fourth-graders currently use will be moved to first grade to replace aging iPads, Mr. Whelan said.

In other business, the board approved salary raises for Systems Technician Edward Chandler, $70,860, Transportation Supervisor Cheryl Fowler, $52,690, and Facilities Manager Mark Richardson, $65,000. The three supervisors received contract extensions at the May 28 regular meeting through June 30, 2023 with no raises approved at that time.

Director of Pupil Personnel Amy Davis introduced new middle school and high school Chinese language teacher Qian Wu to the board. Ms. Wu has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and most recently worked at Bard High School in Cleveland, Mrs. Davis said.

“She started her own program there, and focused on culture and enriching curriculum, rigor and really engaging students,” she said. “We enjoyed hearing all of that. We are very fortunate to have her with us.”

Ms. Wu will receive an annual salary of $51,340.

While considering a new sports medicine services agreement with University Hospitals, board member Dan Thoreson asked Superintendent Richard Markwardt why the district decided to not continue to utilize Precision Orthopaedic Specialties, which had provided an athletic trainer that was available on campus and known by students and parents.

Dr. Markwardt said the services through UH’s sports medicine team would look very similar to Precision, with a trainer at the high school 40 hours a week and a team physician working home and away football games. He noted students will be able to begin looking into any medical issue with a UH employee in the trainer which would also allow for seamless entry into UH’s broader healthcare system should the student need additional consultations and treatments.

“It’s the supplemental opportunities that our students will have through UH that makes this proposal attractive to us at this point. The services would be essentially the same,” he said. “When you’re working with UH, while you can revise programs, you have a menu from which to choose to tailor those programs to the needs of your students. It’s not that they just have started the programs, they’ve demonstrated a history of longevity and success with those programs.”

Board vice president Bill Beers questioned the language of the agreement that emphasized taking care of football athletes.

“Not that (football) should be de-emphasized, but I was wondering about the other sports,” Dr. Beers said. “You can have a concussion playing basketball too. So, how is that covered? I just think of the other sports other than football that kids are involved in that they can get injured in.”

Dr. Markwardt assured the board that all athletes will have access to concussion protocols and the district trainer would attend the majority of athletic events. The team physician, however, would mainly work around the football team due to the high contact that makes injuries more likely in that sport.

“I just think it’s kind of sad,” Mr. Thoreson said. “We went with Precision for a number of years. I guess it’s just smart to change for us.”

The board approved the contract with UH at zero cost to the district. Dr. Markwardt noted that while athletic training used to cost upwards of $10,000 per year for schools, most local healthcare entities have offered their services free of charge.

Tim Tedeschi covers the Solon and West Geauga Board of Education, as well as statewide education issues, sports and features. He is a lifelong diehard Cleveland Indians fan and a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University.

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