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Gateway officials criticize how used district computers were sold

Dillon Carr
| Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, 5:33 p.m.
Gateway School Board members at an Aug. 15 meeting.
Dillon Carr | Tribune-Review
Gateway School Board members at an Aug. 15 meeting.

Some Gateway school directors expressed frustration with administrators last week over how some laptop computers were sold, after the superintendent sought the board's approval.

The school board in June authorized the administration to sell 360 used Macbook Air and Lenovo Twist laptops, because the district had just leased 370 Macbook Pros and other equipment.

According to information presented at a meeting last week, only eight Macbook Airs remain for sale. Attempts to obtain more information from school officials were unsuccessful.

Board members said Oct. 3 they had only authorized the resale of the laptops if they first were offered to residents as part of a move toward one-to-one technology. That nationwide education initiative aims to provide each student with access to the internet and to digital textbooks in the classroom and at home.

“We were looking for a way to get students or families the laptops,” board member Chad Stubenbort said.

Gateway's director of technology, Michael Brown, said teachers got first dibs to purchase the laptops at a discounted rate.

“The staff who was using those computers, we gave them first access to purchase their own computer. After that, then we did offer it to the public,” Brown said during the meeting. He said the laptops and other equipment sold will amount to around $150,000.

“Everyone across the board has received something,” Brown said.

Stubenbort said the school board never approved the sale of the laptops and equipment to Gateway teachers and staff.

“We have basically less than 10 percent of teachers living in the district and we're selling a laptop at a very, very discounted rate to a lot of individuals who aren't even taxpayers,” he said. “So we've now paid for them to get a discounted computer. I find that troubling.”

Superintendent Bill Short said the board and administration communicated on plans for selling the laptops and equipment.

“In our communications via the board agendas, there was communication about the different plans that we would eventually partake in,” he said.

Bruce Dice, the district's attorney, said during the meeting that the state school code requires the board to vote on any sale that's in excess of $100. He said the administration's sale of the laptops and equipment could violate the code.

Some bought between 10 and 15 laptops, board member Steve O'Donnell said.

“You need to pay close attention to board conversations and board directives,” O'Donnell said.

School director Mary Beth Cirucci agreed.

“You said that all the teachers were offered a chance to purchase their laptop. … The laptop does not belong to the teacher; it belongs to the taxpayer because the taxpayer is the one who pays for every piece of equipment that our teachers use,” Cirucci said.

Nevertheless, the school board approved selling the laptops and other equipment with a 6-3 vote because, as some put it, the sale can't be undone. Board members Stephanie Byrne, George Lapcevich and Stubenbort dissented.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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