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Elizabeth Forward sets ground rules for iPads

| Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 2:21 a.m.

Elizabeth Forward School District is laying down the ground rules for iPads that students will get next month.

“It's not about iPads,” district director of technology Mary Beth Wiseman told the school board at its committee of the whole meeting on Wednesday. “It's about learning and how iPads can change that learning and enhance it.”

Elizabeth Forward is obtaining the iPads under a leasing agreement with Apple that will cost the district no more than $550,000 a year.

Students in all schools will receive iPads, beginning with the high school Oct. 7-10.

In order to assure that all the bugs are worked out in the high school distribution, schedules for other schools have been pushed back.

Students in Elizabeth Forward Middle School will get their iPads Oct. 21-23, then distribution will happen at Central, Greenock, Mt. Vernon and William Penn elementary schools Oct. 28-30.

Each student will be assessed a $20 fee for a fund to cover what could happen to an iPad over the next two years. In answer to school director Dr. Robert Rhoderick Jr., Wiseman said each iPad costs $499.

“Use of any school-owned equipment is a responsibility, not a right,” said a computer-generated display Wiseman was controlling with her iPad.

“We want to teach kids digital responsibility,” Superintendent Bart Rocco said. “We have a job as responsible adults, too, as educators, teachers and parents, to monitor and regulate (that use).”

That includes making sure children spend time doing other things, Solicitor Matt Racunas said. “There are times when I have to pull my kids off an app and tell them to go out and play,”

Director of finance and operations Richard Fantauzzi said the board will consider a timeline for a 2014-15 budget at its regular meeting next week.

He said the district will have to meet a Jan. 30 deadline for passing an Act 1 resolution.

That is the notice to the state Department of Education that a district will not raise taxes higher than the index determined under state Act 1. Fantauzzi said preliminary indications point to a 3 percent index, or an increase of $490,000 in local tax income.

Because of Allegheny County reassessment and this year's Act 1 index of 2.4 percent, the tax rate was lowered from 25.0118 mills in 2011-12 to 20.6797 mills in 2012-13.

That represents a revenue-neutral rate of 20.6052 mills plus 0.745 mills to cover the Act 1 index. The district anticipated netting $15.2 million in property tax for 2012-13.

If preliminary indications hold up, Elizabeth Forward could raise taxes in 2014-15 to approximately 21.3 mills.

Assistant Superintendent Todd Keruskin reported on the changes coming because of Pennsylvania's “No Child Left Behind” waiver, including “building level scores” that will be handed out by the state Department of Education, possibly on Tuesday.

Keruskin said those scores will be based only in part on “indicators of academic achievement” such as the Keystone Exams and Pennsylvania System of School Assessment scores that measured adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind.

He reported that the Dream Factory learning space at the middle school continues to get help from Carnegie Mellon University and California University of Pennsylvania. He said it is being funded with $20,000 from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit and $10,000 from the Sprout Fund.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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