North Allegheny purchases laptop, desktop computers

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North Allegheny school directors have approved a program to purchase laptops and computers in the first step of superintendent Raymond Gualtieri's one-to-one computer initiative.

Also, board members voted May 28 to approve contract extensions for two administrators and heard from a retiring middle school teacher about budget cuts and an insufficient number of administrators.

Directors approved lease-to-own financing package from Laurel Capital for $1.016 million at an interest rate of 2.05 percent to purchase 1,142 laptops from Hewlett-Packard Co. for $925,440.76 and 52 iMac computers from Apple Inc. for $91,052.

Bill Phillips, senior manager of information services, said the purchase is part of the district’s “refresh” program and will replace desktop computers that are more than five years old with laptops.

Newer desktops that the teachers use will be moved to computer labs, he said.

Board member Maureen Grosheider said student council officers from the intermediate and senior high schools reported that some of the computer hardware in those buildings was “not particularly valuable.” Board members met with the student council officers before the board meeting.

“Some of the iPods, for example, are so old that they cannot be upgraded to the new operating system,” she said, adding that a district like North Allegheny should be “technologically up-to-speed for our secondary students.”

Mr. Gualtieri said the district has 11 iPod carts. Administrators are meeting with the principals and teachers to determine if they will be replaced with iPads or laptops, “but they will be replaced in next year’s budget.”

Some board members want to form a technology advisory board of teachers and residents to study Mr. Gualtieri’s proposed one-to-one initiative, saying that they don’t believe the students need that level of technology.

In other action, the board unanimously approved contract extensions with their assistant superintendents.

The contracts for Robert Scherrer, assistant superintendent of K-12 education, and Tammy Andreyko, assistant superintendent for academic advancement, will run through June 30, 2018. Both contracts began in 2013.

In a related matter, a retiring middle school teacher took the board to task for not having enough administrators, and for other budget cuts.

Steve Heckman of McCandless, who is retiring after 35 years, said that the middle schools have the same administrative group — a principal, assistant principal, two counselors and a nurse — than in 1979 when he began teaching at Carson Middle School.

However, the issues those people deal with are more “complicated” today with bullying, conflict resolution, cyber education and cyber bullying.

“Those issues warrant more administrative support,” he said, adding that district administrators work 60 to 80 hours per week. Many have stress-related issues, some have left for smaller districts with less stress while some have died before they could retire, he added.

“When you consider the cost, do you consider the human cost of staffing?” he asked.

He gave an example from athletics. Upper St. Clair, which is 60 percent of NA’s size, has an athletic director, two assistants and a coordinator for each middle school. North Allegheny has an athletic director, he said.

Mr. Heckman also said that students and teachers would be better served by having permanent staff at the schools.

“We have 10 percent of a teacher here and a 20 percent of a teacher there. All the money we spend on traveling teachers is penny wise and pound foolish,” he said. “Alternating a building schedule every nine weeks is good for students, but you can only do this if you are fully staffed.”

He also criticized the board for budget cuts. A majority of the board May 21 turned down an administration recommendation to raise millage in the 2014-15 budget, telling administrators instead to make the budget work without a tax increase.

“When a funding crisis hit the district, you should have learned that when you rob Peter to pay Paul, Peter eventually wants his money back,” Mr. Heckman said. “A society that doesn't value and invest in its future is truly a society in decline.”

Another speaker, Allyson Minton of McCandless, said that she would also be willing to pay more in school taxes.

“The burden my family would be asked to bear is more than reasonable given the benefits that we reap,” she said. “When our schools thrive, our entire society benefits and that is something that I will always support, either with our time or with money.”

The board also unanimously approved the $8.8 million 2014-15 budget for the A.W. Beattie Career Center. North Allegheny’s share is $757,987, up from $556,478 in 2013-14.

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer:

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