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School board passes fee increase, hears from technology trainers

 

August 15, 2018



Representatives of visiting international technology companies and the Havre Public Schools Board had a chance to pay their respects to each other at Tuesday’s board meeting before the companies leave Aug. 17.

The first order of business, however, was for the board to officially approve the 2019 final budget for the elementary district and high school district following the state timeline.

Superintendent Andy Carlson said the board had reviewed the budget in May.

He added that the board was still looking to fill counselor and special education positions and would leave the positions in the budget.

Board approves increase in activities fees

The board then heard from Dennis Murphy, activities director at Havre High School, who asked for a five dollar increase in the High School activities fees.

“We have never raised them,” he said.

Murphy asked the board to raise the fees from $15 to $20 for students, and from $20 to 25 for Pay-to-Play’s single-sport fee. For playing two or more sports, the maximum fee would be $50, and a family’s maximum total cost would be capped at $100.

Murphy added that students are never turned away from a team if they cannot afford the Pay-to-Play fee.

“We always find a way,” he said, adding scholarships can be used.

He asked the board to consider the increasing expenses of the last 18 years, including gas, motels and game officials fees.

“We used to get motels for $55 a night,” Murphy said after the meeting. “Now we’re lucky if we find one for $100 a night.”

The cost of a basketball game out of town, he gave as an example, might include 12 rooms, with the cost of each room going up about $10 this year.

The fees of officials who oversee sports games have also increased, he said, from $36 to $48.

“So that increases expenses when we’re at home,” Murphy said, adding that Havre often needs to pay for officials to travel from other towns for home games.

“You need officials to play the game,” he said.

Murphy estimated the cost of officials range from $11,000 to $15,000 a year. These increased costs have contributed to a $9,000 deficit, he added.

“The revenue didn’t match what was going out,” he said.

“Remember, when our teams do well, it’s expensive,” Carlson told the board. “There’s a price to pay for success.”

“As the success goes up, the bills go up,” Murphy added.

“If you don’t go to state then you don’t have those expenses,” Carlson said this morning.

“I don’t want to send the wrong message,” he added. “I wouldn’t have it any other way — it’s awesome.”

Tech assessment and training week

Visitors from this week’s technology assessment attended the meeting, sitting in rows of chairs in front of the board members.

The VMware Foundation approached Havre’s school district earlier in the year, calling it one on the “cusp of technology,” that would benefit from technology upgrades and training.

A team of representatives from VMware, two nonprofits that work in the field of education technology, Team4Tech and Consortium for School Networking, came to Havre last spring for an initial assessment and came back last week for additional work.

Carlson told the board that the group selected Havre Public Schools to receive technology help in the form of aid, training and several donations.

“The donations were servers and switches and a lot of technology stuff that I don’t understand, I’m not even going to try. And then a lot of training,” Carlson said this morning.

“All of this has been on them. … I can’t put a dollar amount on the training — there’s a really large investment in our school district,” Carlson said. “... They’ve been such great people, I’m kinda bummed it’s coming to an end. They’ve been a lot of fun.”

At the board meeting Tuesday, Carlson thanked the companies’ representatives for their workshops this week and their respectful stance as newcomers.

“It’s been better than you could’ve hoped for,” Carlson told the board.

The VMWare Foundation selected 14 “trekkers” from their employees who applied. The trekkers came from around the world to Havre this week to train students and teachers alike in new technologies, said VMware employee Uta Haller of Germany.

Carlson said he appreciated the trekkers’ thoughtfulness.

“A lot of people come here and they bring a lot of ideas,” Carlson said, adding that the new ideas were always welcome, but not always tailored to Havre’s needs. “They don’t take the time to get to know you.”

The trekkers, however, asked if their solutions were appropriate before moving forward, he said.

“Before they came to our place they wanted to know who we were,” Carlson added.

The interest was mutual, he said, adding that he got to exchange cultural information and experiences with a trekker from Singapore.

“It’s not just about us bringing technology,” Haller said, adding that she found many moments touching. “We were really impressed by the teachers, the questions.”

Marisa Glassman, senior global giving manager of the VMware Foundation, told the board that her company strives to build a culture of service among its employees. Everyone in the company does 40 hours of service learning, she said.

Glassman added that the company emphasized the term “service learning” to avoid the “white horse” mentality of volunteerism.

“It’s very much a relationship among equals,” she said.

Two representatives from Team4Tech, Gail Shen and Down Kwan, told the board about their company’s mission to bring 21st century skills and technology to communities around the world, including Alaska, Utah and now Montana.

Kwan shared stories of their experiences leading workshops in Havre. She mentioned a man who got frustrated while learning one of the hardest tools, micro-bit; his grandchild came over and helped him.

A young boy came up to one of the trekkers, she added, and gave her a high-five.

“This is the best day ever,” he said.

Shen said she admired the teachers she had met at Havre High.

“There are quality, quality educators everywhere,” she added. “We’re just bringing tools.”

Shen told the board that a big part of Team4Tech’s mission was to spread equality among females and males through making science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, accessible to all.

“It’s been a real joy and I look forward to the next few days,” Carlson said. “... I wish we could have a few more.

“We saw kids who don’t necessarily have their moments — they had their moments,” he added.

Principal Ed Norman told the representatives, “Whatever time you guys put in with your trekkers — they came in and were so friendly and cordial.”

Assistant Superintendent Craig Mueller said he witnessed the “genius” of the trekkers, who invented an English language game in the back seat during a long car ride.

“Half of them, English is not their first language,” Mueller said.

Haller said she was very impressed by Havre High, mentioning the Chrome books that the High School already had in place.

“I personally grew up in a rural area and I’m deeply grateful for the work you do,” she told the Board. “I wish I’d had a school like this growing up.”

Carlson added, “One of the things the trekkers shared was how fortunate our students are. That’s one of the things we struggle with every day is to convince kids, ‘This is what you have in front of you.’”

Some changes in orientation this year

The beginning-of-the-year orientation will have some additions this year, Carlson told the board, including employee longevity recognitions and celebrations on opening day.

This year’s orientation schedule will also include times for people to meet with presidents and stewards of unions to go over contracts, he said.

Carlson also told the board about a recent standardized threat assessment training he and a group attended in Great Falls.

He said today that the workshop, which taught them about documentation, better prepares the school for incidents such as a bomb threat or a student threatening to “do something.”

“I’m really pleased with our standardized protocols,” Carlson said to the board.

“We are implementing strategies (from the training),” Carlson added. “We’re pretty good at what to do during the incident, but not as much with making the report, so this really tied everything together.”

He said today that he thought the documentation would greatly add to the school’s standardized threat protocols.

Carlson told the board he was pleased with the staff training, ongoing from Aug. 10 - 23.

“We’ve had multiple days where awesome things are happening on the same day,” Carlson said. “I’ve been so impressed.”

“Our professional development committee, they’ve done a really nice job of putting together high quality training,” he said today.

The technology trekkers would be going to public schools with “Makers” technology today, Carlson said.

School sports scrimmages starting

Murphy also told the board about upcoming blue and white sports scrimmages.

“To me it means — school year’s started,” Carlson said this morning.

Saturday’s volleyball match will be at 2 p.m. followed by football at 5:30 p.m., Murphy told the board.

Friday, Aug. 24, is the season’s first football game, he said.

Havre football has a home game against Hardin, and hosts the Eastern A volleyball tipoff tournament Friday and Saturday, Aug. 24-25.

“It will be a really busy weekend, sportswise,” Murphy added.

 

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