...incoming Franklin Co. superintendent to face challenge of meeting classroom technology needs; CIO warns equipment costs, small staff "a matter of priority"

State Journal, Frankfort, June 6, 2017

Franklin County Public Schools Chief Information Officer Jimmy Pack calls for additional staff, funding

By Austin Horn

Just after the welcoming party for incoming Superintendent Mark Kopp ended at the Franklin County Public Schools Board of Education meeting Monday, one of his potential first orders of business was introduced to the board.

FCPS Chief Information Officer Jimmy Pack recommended that the district address a lack of adequate technology-focused staff and funding to meet the school’s increasingly ambitious technology projects.

Pack highlighted the urgency of this need by focusing on, among other things, the district’s Chromebook pilot program. The initiative, titled “1:World,” entails providing all teachers and students at the middle and high school levels a Google Chromebook to use as if it were their own. FCPS partially rolled out 1:World in select classrooms and will implement it in full next year. The project is estimated to cost around $2 million.

With the additional devices comes an even greater need for technological expertise and oversight, according to Pack, who made his case directly to the board Monday evening. Pack listed a litany of technological improvements and additions that have been made since he took the job of CIO in 2008, according to his Linkedin account. FCPS online accounts have increased by nearly 5,000 — and the number of computers and devices has increased commensurately — wireless access points have grown from 10 to 512, and technology on the whole has become more integrated into every level of instruction.

Meanwhile, Pack’s staff has grown by just one, increasing from five to six in that time period. And at $250,000, the FCPS budget for technology has not increased during that time, though federal refunds totaling $240,000 have helped shoulder the burden. To underscore his concerns, Pack pointed to districts of similar size that have invested more in their technology staff.

“This is a standard problem that we have across the state,” Pack said. “The [response at FCPS] is ‘Well, we can’t do that,’ but somebody has. Jessamine County has 13 technicians, Hart has four [digital learning coaches], Henderson has six technicians… It’s a matter of priority.”

In laying out FCPS’ needs, Pack used an informal recommendation from the state, which suggested that districts hire a technician for every 800 students and a digital learning coach for every 1,500. For FCPS, that ratio would suggest hiring just under nine technicians and four digital learning coaches for the district.

In other business, Dwight Salisbury updated the board on a more familiar project: the plans to construct a new building for Collins Lane Elementary School.

Salisbury, a consulting attorney on the project, offered a final price on the project, $16.8 million, which the board approved. The financial plan, which passes through a rigorous state project approval process, will now wait to earn state approval.

“The bonds have been approved and we’re going to sell them on June 28th,” Salisbury said. “There’s a statute that says they have to be sold competitively, so we’ll take bids and then close three weeks later.”

“The architect submits the bids to KDE, and they approve that side. We’ll submit the plan for financing that I showed tonight just to make sure that they can pay for the bonds.”

Superintendent Chrissy Jones, in one of her last board meetings before she retires on June 30th, also brought up the statewide implementation of Senate Bill 1, which “requires districts to implement a personnel evaluation system aligned to a statewide framework,” according to the Kentucky Department of Education website. Jones announced that the board plans to implement a new evaluation system that will conform to SB1 guidelines by July 1.

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