| By John Howell Sr.
North Panola school trustees on Monday night deferred the purchase of $446,000 worth of computers and software for the district’s seven schools.
The district school board will meet again Monday, September 26 to reconsider the purchase, district superintendent Robert Massey said.
School administrators and curriculum coordinators and consultants had lobbied heavily for the purchase during the early minutes of the September 19 school board meeting. The proposal called for the lease-purchase over five years through First Security Bank of 151 to 155 new computers with Classworks software, Massey said.
Dr. Belinda Mothershed, a consultant for the district and North Panola curriculum coordinator Jennifer Mock made a multi-media presentation describing the Classworks software for board members, administrators and approximately 15 parents and school patrons.
"It will help teachers not spend so much time trying to analyze test data," Mothershed said.
The software allows each student’s strengths and weaknesses in specified areas to be plotted and identified quickly. Having the information will allow teachers to direct individual attention to areas where the individual student is deficient, the consultant said.
Assistant curriculum coordinator Michael Britt said that most of the computers currently in use are five years old and many are not working.
"If we purchase the computer software and we don’t have computers which will carry the software, we haven’t done anything," Britt said.
"Classworks is essential to what we do to assure continuity and consistency from one grade to the next," Como Elementary School Principal George Knox said.
Principals from each school spoke in favor of the computer and software purchase as they gave reports from their schools. Massey told trustees that repayment of the lease-purchase would be made from the district’s federal-state program funds.
"What’s going to assure us that we’re going to get this?" board president Cecil Dowden asked.
Massey replied that a state education official had assured him that "federal programs were guaranteed, probably surer than any other funds."
"I think we need to put it in two schools and see if it works," trustee Mack Taylor said. "Then next year, I will have no problem at all putting it in the rest of the schools."
Taylor said that he was concerned over diversion of federal funds to finance the recovery from Hurricane Katrina and over the impact of rising fuel costs to the district.
"We need to sit down with the administrators in the central office and discuss it among ourselves," Dowden said.
The board tabled the motion to for the computers and software purchase. It will be reconsidered at the September 26 meeting.