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Wednesday, July 1, 2015 by Courtney Griffin
AISD purchases $14 million in devices
Students and teachers across Austin Independent School District campuses will soon see new mobile devices popping up in classrooms, but not everyone will get an iPad in next year’s locker.
AISD board members unanimously approved $14 million to purchase 20,000 new mobile devices that will replace outdated equipment. The funds are a portion of the $81 million technology bond that voters approved in 2013.
However, District 6 Board Member Paul Saldaña pulled the item from the consent agenda and questioned staff’s decision to allow each of AISD’s 130 campuses the option to choose from a variety of mobile device brands.
“There’s often a perception based on the list of vendors here, and I’m not going to talk about a specific one, but there is often a perception that maybe, perhaps some equipment is better than others,” Saldaña said at the June 22 meeting.
Saldaña said that, from an equity standpoint, he wanted to avoid a situation in which parents felt unfairly treated because their students did not have the same resources at School B that School A provided.
Explaining the reasoning behind the decision, Superintendent Paul Cruz said that district campus officials underwent a self-assessment process in which they independently determined whether Apple iPads, Android tablets, Chromebooks, Windows tablets or Windows laptops best fit their campus’s needs.
The goal is to allow each campus to choose devices that fit with programs already underway and build out future programs that work better on different platforms, said Chief Financial Officer Nicole Conley. Each campus is given a technology spending budget based on its self-assessment.
Cruz said he could foresee some student populations, such as special-needs students, receiving more resources, “but the issue around equity will come from the allocation each school receives.”
AISD will deal with unexpected problems, such as differences in device life spans, as they pop up, Conley said.
The district currently operates on a 3-to-1 device-to-student ratio and has a technology expenditure rate of about $300 per student for the next three years. The district also projects spending an estimated $31.8 million on technology and infrastructure and $21.5 on technology-based teaching and learning initiatives, according to its 2014-2017 technology plan.
At the meeting, board members also approved $18 million to outfit another 3,800 classrooms with “Presentation Systems,” formerly known as Innovation Stations. The systems include a ceiling-mounted projector, wall-mounted speakers, a projector screen, a microphone, a document camera, a computer and a remote-control panel. The equipment will be placed in the remaining classes that did not receive systems from a 2008 bond.
Saldaña requested that staff keep the board updated on new technology needs and the 2013 bond implementation process.
In response to Austin Monitor questions, AISD Media Relations Coordinator Jacob Barrett said the district will spend additional funds training its 25 information technology support staff members on the new devices. The variety of options, he added, will ensure that students have the devices best suited for subject-specific tasks.
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