The Examiner U-46 News Feed
Bartlett PTB to receive grant computers, finally
By Seth Hancock
The School District U-46 Board of Education approved a $32,880 expenditure to purchase 60 laptops for Bartlett Elementary School on Monday, Dec. 18, but questions lingered over the process the Parents and Teachers of Bartlett (PTB) had to go through to complete the purchase.
The PTB, Bartlett’s Parent Teacher Organization, will reimburse the district with funds it received through a grant. The U-46 board approved the purchase with a 6-0 vote, board member Traci Ellis was not in attendance.
At the previous meeting on Dec. 4, co-presidents of the PTB Terea Eid and Sara Lippold addressed the board and described what they felt was an overly arduous process for the PTB to purchase the technology for their school. They said in summer 2016 the PTB applied for a grant offered by a local business, and after approval Lippold said the PTB went on “an 11-month endeavor” to spend the grant funds but was given little help from both the district and school administrations.
Board member Jeanette Ward asked prior to the vote that the district “offer some kind of an explanation” on why the process seemed so difficult. She also later questioned if the PTB’s intentions for use of the technology were being followed.
“Constituents contacted me worried that the funds may be revoked because they’ve been in their possession for so long,” Ward said.
Lorelei Keltner, principal at Bartlett Elementary, said she asked the PTB if there was a timeframe in which the group needed to spend the funds.
“They indicated that there was not a timeline, there was no deadline for them or no committed timeline for them to spend these funds,” Keltner said.
Keltner added: “We considered several options for how these funds might be spent to best serve the students of Bartlett Elementary School, and through the process of engaging the faculty and staff in this decision we came to the conclusion that students would best be served with the addition of laptop technology distributed equally amongst classrooms.”
Board member Phil Costello responded: “I understand that you say they gave you no timeline, but obviously sooner than later would be preferable. Were they involved in this discussion and did they give any guidance? Frequently grants or funds given are given with criteria with what they should be used for. Was any of that criteria given to you?”
Teachers were asked to be a part of the decision making process by the PTB according to Keltner who said it went to a school committee and staff was surveyed on how best to use the funds.
“They made the determination that they would best serve our students by placing them equally among the classrooms,” Keltner said. “So the PTB relinquished that discussion, more or less, to what the teachers were wanting as far as technology to serve the student needs.”
Ward asked if “equally among classrooms” meant classes such as physical education (P.E.) would be included? She said that P.E. classrooms had already received technology from the district which U-46 CEO Tony Sanders later confirmed saying “we did purchase additional technology with our latest rollout so there would already be resources in the P.E. classroom for our students.”
Keltner said there would be “additional” and “ongoing” discussions on how the technology would be used and ultimately it could include P.E. classes as well as music and art.
Ward said: “I guess what I’m getting at is my understanding that the original intention was for the classroom teachers, so not the special teachers like P.E. and so on to get them, but the classroom teachers to get them. Is that correct?”
“That is actually not correct,” Keltner replied. “Recently we reviewed in school committee minutes the language that was chosen that was written in the minutes when this decision was made, and the language was that the computers would be distributed equitably or equally among classrooms. Technically, art has a classroom, music has a classroom and P.E. has a classroom. So what we agreed to do was bring that back for further discussion once we knew the final number of the purchase.”
Ward said that since the PTB is giving the funds to the district to make the purchase, “I would think that they would have a say. They would have the say about that, correct?”
Keltner said that “we certainly want to value the generosity of the Parents and Teachers of Bartlett in providing this technology for our school” but “once it’s purchased it becomes the possession of the school district’s and we can’t always guarantee that on any given year that number could change. So we have to be flexible to be able to move these items around each year to best serve the needs of the students.”
Ward said she understands the need for flexibility but “at first I would think that it would start out where the PTB wanted them to be.”
Sanders said: “This is not aligned to any curriculum, therefore it can be used anywhere within the building.”
Costello, who said he also understood the need for flexibility, said ultimately “it seemed like there was a communication breakdown.”
“I would just encourage you to be more, at least from what I’m hearing, conversing with the parents as to ‘this is where we are’ so that they have a fine and firm understanding that this money will be spent, within U-46 policy, to the betterment of the school,” Costello said.
Also approved that evening by unanimous votes were $7.4 million in itemized bills as well as a $119,603 expenditure with TransChicago Truck Group, out of the education fund, to replace a 2004 refrigerated truck.