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School Board considers hiring, lunch, Wi-Fi policy

At tonight's meeting, the Superior School Board decides whether to hire another Information Technology specialist. Staffing levels have remained the same -- one director and three techs -- since Information Technology Director Ryan Engstrom joine...

At tonight’s meeting, the Superior School Board decides whether to hire another Information Technology specialist.

Staffing levels have remained the same - one director and three techs - since Information Technology Director Ryan Engstrom joined the district in 2006. During those nine years, the number of computers in the district has grown from 1,500 to 4,000.

"We have also added other technology such as Promethean boards, mobile devices and email for all students," Engstrom told board members during last week’s committee of the whole meeting.

With the one-to-one program providing laptops to all Superior High School students, the increase in the devices and the priorities placed on technology over the years, the department saw a need for additional staff.

Free lunch program

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Student lunch balances can go in the red. What happens then depends on what school the students attends.

"At the elementary level, we feed children whether they have money or not," said Jeanne Hopkins, outgoing food service director. "Students at Superior Middle School and Superior High School are given a free peanut butter sandwich and milk for lunch if their account balance is negative."

Hopkins introduced a new program to the board last week that would, if approved, provide free lunch to most elementary school students in the district. Community Eligibility Provision would involve free breakfast and lunch for all students in the participating schools. Although universal breakfast has been offered in all Superior schools for years, the provision program would add free lunch for all the district’s elementary schools, with the exception of Four Corners. Reimbursement for the meals would change, with no parent money coming in. Hopkins estimated the district would lose about $3,000 per month if implementing the program increased the number of lunches served by 5 percent, a cost of about $27,000 per year.

Ironically, Stevens said, that may be more profitable than the current program. Parents owed the School District of Superior more than $50,000 for unpaid lunches in the 2014-2015 school year.

"In July of this year, we sent $35,000 to the collection agency that we hope we can collect, but that’s hard to say," Hopkins told the board.

Those owing $30 or more were sent to collections.

The district has applied for Community Eligibility Provision and will move forward with a recommendation once it has been approved.

Hopkins said there is also a possibility the program may cover the high school and middle school, as well.

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Wi-Fi policy

A new Wi-Fi policy at Superior High School aims to reduce distractions in class. While district-owned devices for students and staff, including the one-to-one laptops, are connected to the internet through in-school Wi-Fi, personal devices such as cell phones are not.

"The administration and actually the teaching staff at the high school had a conversation about the phones, iPads, things that are getting in the way of their teaching," said School Administrator Janna Stevens said. "Their objective was, when we have the kids from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., we need to have more control in trying to educate them and not have things that are getting in the way."

From 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., personal devices cannot access the district’s Wi-Fi, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are filtered even on district-owned devices. Stevens fully supported the move.

"Teachers and administrators don’t look for more work and they certainly don’t look for trying to make controversy with families and with kids, but they do know what it takes to educate a child so we need to support that and I would hope that the community would agree," she said. "We have the kids during the day to try to teach them. So we can’t be wasting any time."

The first complaint the district got about the policy came from a parent who was unable to chat with a child on Facebook during the school day, Stevens said.

Board Vice President Christina Kintop has been monitoring online student feedback on the Wi-Fi policy with interest.

"I have to say, those students at the high school are very clever," she said. Students have set up Vines, memes, protests and even started collecting signatures to protest the change.

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Tonight’s meeting begins at about 5:30 p.m. in the Administration Office, 3025 Tower Ave., following a closed session.

Related Topics: SCHOOL BOARDSUPERIOR
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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