Tech equality dispute -- St. Mary Parish School Board members discuss Promethean boards
CENTERVILLE, La. — A spat over equality in technology quickly evolved into a disagreement over funding disparities between maintenance districts during Thursday’s meeting of the St. Mary Parish School Board.
Kevin Derise, chief technology officer, reported that District 3, the Morgan City area, previously agreed to distribute $200,000 to the technology department from the maintenance fund to purchase 37 more Promethean boards for District 3 classrooms, bringing distribution to 100 percent in kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms as well as all core classes in grades six through 12.
In comparison, Derise said, District 2, the Berwick through Centerville areas, has the boards in 30 to 40 percent of all core classes, while District 1, everything westward, has them in 70 percent of all core classrooms.
Promethean’s integrated environment is comprised of interactive whiteboards, learner response systems, software, training and professional development, resources and instructor communities, according to the company’s website. Each board, without accessories, costs just under $5,000.
“Why are we treating these students in these schools differently,” asked Wayne Deslatte, a school board member from Centerville who sits on both the maintenance Districts 1 and 2 boards.
Anthony Streva of Morgan City, chairman of the District 3 board, replied that his district had prioritized its needs to fund the purchase.
Deslatte said, “It’s easy to prioritize your needs when you have twice the maintenance money that every other district has.” Deslatte added that he wasn’t criticizing the purchase.
“It all boils down to we prioritize our needs,” Streva said.
Deslatte replied, “It boils down that you’ve got your property assessment.”
In total, there are about 25 percent of St. Mary students in District 3, while Districts 1 and 2 split the rest, Deslatte said.
“When it comes to property assessments you’ve got a relatively small number of students. You’ve got more business. So your millage is giving you money, and it is easy to prioritize more money. We prioritize District 1, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a discrepancy there,” Deslatte said.
Streva replied, “You have to keep in mind the voters voted in the tax.”
Alton Perry, school system chief financial officer, noted that while District 1 has newer infrastructure and is paying for it, District 3 is using its corresponding funds for other things. There are taxes of 14 mills in Franklin and 7 mills in Centerville that could go to maintenance requests, but go toward debt repayment for infrastructure in both areas, Perry said.
“We need to find a way, District 1 does, District 2 does, to treat these schools and these students the same,” Deslatte said.
The board directed personnel to find out how much money it will take to place a Promethean board in each core classroom in the remaining areas of the parish.
Mike Taylor, a school board member from Berwick, said “We do need to make sure that we service the children well and have the best possible educational tools in the classroom such as the Promethean boards. I think we need to do whatever it takes to make sure there’s one everywhere available even if that means taking it from our reserves. It’s a priority we ought to be addressing.”