Marengo BOE unveils technology plan

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 22, 2007

LINDEN &8212; As technology becomes a growing part of education, area school systems are looking for ways to keep up with and keep ahead of the technology game. With that in mind, the Marengo County School system unveiled their five-year strategic plan for technology Thursday.

Jana Hoggle, technology coordinator, has been working for the last several months on assessing the technology needs of the four schools in the system and finding a program to address those needs.

According to Hoggle, a needs assessment showed that each school has specific needs, ranging from lack of surveillance to even basic intercom service being available. She noted the following needs at each of the four campuses:

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A.L. Johnson

no surveillance cameras

intercom system more than 10 years old

seven Windows &8216;98 computers

no emergency notification system in individual teachers rooms

John Essex

3 video surveillance cameras (none in gym or cafeteria)

intercom system more than 20 years old

no emergency notification system in individual teachers rooms

Marengo High School

surveillance in high school only (lightning damage has rendered elementary inoperable)

intercom system 16-25 years old, some rooms do not work

no emergency notification system in individual teachers rooms

Sweet Water

six cameras (none in cafeteria)

Intercom system has been hit numerous times by lightning and static renders many classrooms inoperable

12 Windows &8216;98 computers

no emergency notification system in individual teachers rooms

Bus shop and alternative school

no cameras at bus shop, three at alternative school

no Intercom system

no emergency notification system

While some of these needs seem to be intuitive, such as surveillance cameras for safety, others &8212; such as out of date computers, pose their own safety risks.

Furthermore, the Internet and communication system the school system currently operates is comprised of fiber optic cable connected by a &8220;myriad of unmanaged, unreliable switches made by various manufacturers,&8221; Hoggle said.

This kind of network causes both repair and troubleshooting problems, she said.

With these concerns in mind, Hoggle has found an integrated system, or converged network, that will put telephones, intercoms, bell systems, surveillance, internet and computers on the same system, all of which can be operated at a single, centralized location &8212; like the board office.

Some of the components include having telephones in each classroom that will be able to dial directly to the office or 911 in case of emergencies. Forty-eight new Internet protocol surveillance cameras can be accessed from any administrator computer as well as be connected to cameras already in place.

The cost of the total program over five years is estimated at $1.9 million, but with assistance from a federal program, the system will only be responsible for financing 13 percent of the project.

E-rate, a program with the Federal Communications Commission, takes funds from taxpayers in the form of FCC fees and puts them toward technology programs for schools and libraries. Hoggle explained the funds their system has applied for are considered Priority I, which simply requires the system to fill out the paperwork to receive the funds.

The e-rate reduction in combination with grant funds and bond issue funds, will only see the school system spending a nominally larger amount in the first year for technology than they already spend. The subsequent years, however, will be of lower cost than they spend now.

Board members agreed, and voted to approve the five-year plan.