Picayune School Board approves network improvements, funding is next step

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Picayune School District’s Board of Trustees recognized three elementary students for their academic dedication and heard a proposal to upgrade the District’s wireless Internet system.
West Side Elementary Principal Kerri Wilder introduced three students to the Board during Tuesday’s meeting, Samuel Schroeder, Braylin LaFontaine and Brooke Rouse, who were named to the school’s Hall of Fame program, which recognizes students for exceptional attendance, grades and proficiency in the iReady program.
Wilder said that on average, 50 students are named to the Hall of Fame each nine weeks, but the students presented to the Board were the only three to be named to the school’s Hall of Fame every nine weeks this school year.
District Technology Coordinator Freddie Parker spoke to the Board about the need to update wireless Internet access at most campuses. The current system was installed about eight years ago, long before tablets, smart phones and laptops became commonplace. With the addition of iPads, tablets, Chromebooks and other portable computers in the classroom, the current wireless network setup is insufficient, Parker said.
He presented a bid to the Board for $226,523 to conduct the necessary improvements district-wide, of which 85 percent would be covered by E-Rate, which comes from federal funding.
Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell said the lowest and best bid to conduct the work came from Venture Technologies. The Board approved a motion to apply for the funding.
District Network Administrator Jason Wheat said there are a total of 2,776 computers and 24 computer labs in the district, many of which are wireless. On average, each classroom has four computers. He used the systems at Nicholson Elementary as an example. Of the school’s 632 computers, about half are a combination of laptops, tablets and iPads.
Wheat said at times students have to find a corner of a classroom where the wireless signal is strongest in order to connect one of those devices.
On a separate but related topic, Board member Frank Feeley asked about the security of the network, in relation to the audit recently released by the State Auditor’s office. That audit found a majority of computers in nine test school districts displayed evidence inappropriate content had been viewed on school equipment, such as pornography. The identity of the school districts tested was not released.
Parker said the District employs filters to prevent students from accessing such information and a firewall to protect the administrative side of the network. Wheat added that the audit found that the problem was prevalent in districts that allowed school computers to be taken home, but Picayune School District does not allow such a practice.
In other business:
—Director of Exceptional Education Diane Wise took a moment to thank the Kiwanis Club of the Greater Picayune Area for donating Chromebooks to the special education department.
The next Board meeting will be May 9 at 5:30 p.m.

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