County school board hears technology update

By Joe Ross

Henry County Schools are ahead of the curve when it comes to incorporating technology in classrooms.

In an update to the school board, Elizabeth Adkins, director of Technology and Innovation in the division, said there are approximately 7,100 iPads, about 1,600 laptops in carts, 550 desktops, an estimated 1,500 laptops for certified staff and others, 420 Interactive boards in classrooms, 300 Apple TVs and about 50 document scanners.

Adkins also offered ideas to help improve technology’s reach in and outside of classrooms, such as suggestions for facilitators perform a more invasive removal of previous class work from devices to ensure the devices are maintained in a new state for the next set of students, and the removal of a faulty management software.

A management software used by the county was not performing to the standards of the board, prompting Adkins to suggest an exodus from that software to a more proven one. The move to a new management software would involve switching systems for three class grades, she said, adding five days would be needed for IT crews to reconfigure the software.

She also discussed a mobile device management system.

“We use the mobile device management system to be able to see where our devices are in the county, not just in our schools, but we can track them to someone’s house, or if one is missing, we can help parents locate it,” Adkins said, ”

Adkins also shared a video with the board, showing Henry County students who discussed their love for technology and the reasons t is useful for them in the class room.

Superintendent Sandy Strayer said, “We say this all the time, that we only have our students for a short amount of time, and we know that we need to provide them experiences, opportunities, and teaching skills that will help ensure that they can successful at any job and jobs that don’t even exist yet.”

In other matters, the board:

Approved a recommendation to observe Hispanic Heritage Week. The initiative began in 1968 during President Lyndon Johnson’s tenure and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to begin Sept. 15 and end Oct. 15.

Will recognize Attendance Awareness Month, which includes a Call to Action, with schools to highlight the importance of attendance, mobilize the community to make improved attendance a shared civic priority and use data to track the attendance gap and show the number of students chronically absent, whether they are concentrated in particular grades, schools and student populations.

Approved a Consent Agenda that included the minutes from previous meetings and bills.

Approved several overnight and/or out-of-state field trips.

Considered proposed revisions to school board policies to bring current policies into compliance with new, revised or current laws.

Heard public comment from Debbie Bowman, who discussed bus routes.

Awarded a one-year, $42,000 contract to the Pierce Group for employee benefit broker services. The cost will be paid from Self-Insurance Reserve Funds to the firm that specializes in administering employee benefit programs to public sector clients. The division may exercise subsequent contract renewals up to five years. Henry County also is using the firm.

Approved an additional appropriation to the School Nutrition Program of $239,864. The funds are from the Virginia Department of Education and earmarked for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

Met in closed session to discuss a number of issues, including requests for release of compulsory attendance, pending legal matters and personnel. When the board reconvened, it approved a personnel report and considered special placement/nonresident requests.


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