Groton schools chief wants computer upgrade

Groton - Superintendent Michael Graner said Monday he wants to replace all of the school district's computers over the next five years, and buy enough Chromebook laptop computers so that every ninth-grader has one.

Graner told the Board of Education's finance and facilities committee he'd formally bring the proposal to the school board in the future. He also proposed hiring a new administrator called the "director of teaching and learning" to oversee the curriculum and coordinate initiatives across the schools. Graner proposed an annual salary of $144,000 for the post.

"We need to have school improvement plans that align with each other," Graner said, explaining his rationale for the new position. "We shouldn't have ten schools going off in ten different directions."

The central office position could be paid for in the existing budget because money is being shuffled among line items. Since the previous fiscal year ended June 30, the school department knows what it spent last year, what it budgeted this year and where adjustments can be made. Based on this data, Graner distributed a "spend plan" to the finance and facilities committee on Monday which showed about $547,000 that was not spoken for and could be spent on other initiatives.

Graner said the administrator salary could come from that total. He said the school department might also need to hire three teachers as kindergarten classes are approaching 23 and 24 students.

The $75.1 million education budget approved for this fiscal year had cut four teachers and two administrators.

The five-year computer replacement program, along with a laptop for every ninth-grader, would cost about $375,000 and could be paid for with Department of Defense supplemental impact aid, Graner said.

"It's a big number, but it's not a fall off the chair number," Graner said of the cost of the computer initiative.

Groton receives the aid to help cover the cost of educating children whose parents serve in the military and do not pay local property taxes. Defense money has been spent on technology in the past, but it has also been saved, Graner said. Groton has $1.2 million in the account, according to paperwork distributed to committee.

"The sense that I've gotten is it's sort of a savings account, which I think is inappropriate," Graner said. "I'm proposing it be used for the children." The spending would have to be approved by the Board of Education.

d.straszheim@theday.com

Twitter: @DStraszheim

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