School Board Recognition Week was Feb. 18 - 22. Right now, the Spring Grove District #297 has one member going to great lengths to serve, all the way from FOB Fenty in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. During the board’s February meeting, members congregated by the big screen for a group shot. Pictured left to right are: Chair Aaron Solum, Vice-chair Shannon Schuttemeier, Secretary/treasurer Eric Bjerke and board members Michelle Borreson and Stephanie Jaster. Myrah is pictured on the screen. It was 5 a.m. when he logged in for their 7 p.m. meeting. One member in Spring Grove joked he should recruit some audience members to ask questions on his end. Everyone agreed that it would be hard to get people to a 5 a.m. school board meeting!<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->SGH/Gray
School Board Recognition Week was Feb. 18 - 22. Right now, the Spring Grove District #297 has one member going to great lengths to serve, all the way from FOB Fenty in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. During the board’s February meeting, members congregated by the big screen for a group shot. Pictured left to right are: Chair Aaron Solum, Vice-chair Shannon Schuttemeier, Secretary/treasurer Eric Bjerke and board members Michelle Borreson and Stephanie Jaster. Myrah is pictured on the screen. It was 5 a.m. when he logged in for their 7 p.m. meeting. One member in Spring Grove joked he should recruit some audience members to ask questions on his end. Everyone agreed that it would be hard to get people to a 5 a.m. school board meeting!

SGH/Gray
"You definitely did the right thing," said Spring Grove Public School technology director, Jeff Thompson, to the school board on Feb. 26.

Thompson was providing the board with a technology update regarding its two-year old laptop and iPad program in the district.

"We are doing some really cool stuff here," he explained. "There are five or so schools in southeast Minnesota attempting to do what we are here (laptops to every student)."

"I must admit, I was nervous choosing the equipment (Mac instead of PCs) and GoogleDocs," he added. "We made the right choice."

Thompson explained that even though the upfront costs were more for the MacBook Air laptops, $900 per student (per laptop) versus about half that much for a Netbook, the repairs don't even compare.

Other districts are averaging $760 per student in repairs and upkeep and will be lucky to get three years out their units. "We will easily get our three years (out of ours) and may get five years, if needed."

"Our repairs have been minimum. The Airs have no moving parts in them and the titanium covers make them almost indestructible. They will bounce off the floor (although it is not recommended)," he joked.

Thompson talked about the "epidemic" of hard-drive replacements the other schools face with their PC units. "That is their term not mine," he pointed out.

He also bragged about the Mac's security, ability to be reformatted and the ease of installing or re-installing software with minimal effort and time.

"We can even monitor our laptops to see if a student is Facebook or other banned sites." The other technology directors can't do that he noted.

"Our students can print to our school printers," Thompson said. Other districts have students put documents on a jump drive as they cannot print directly from their laptops.

Google Apps are allowing students and staff to share documents, administration staff to share calendars and data integrated with Gmail and the school board is now using video chat and Dox (see photo and sidebar concerning the first video interactive meeting to allow member Christian Myrah to participate from Afghanistan).

Thompson and Superintendent Rachel Udstuen get regular requests to speak about the success of the Spring Grove program, a joint venture with Spring Grove Communications.

In fact, students will be showing off the school's technology during the Spring Grove Communication's annual meeting at the Fest Building on March 19.

Thompson pointed out that Apple is really in the driver's seat with its "I" family from iPods to iTunes and now iBooks. "They are getting into the e-Book market."

Thompson said that with the new iBook option that will allow teachers and educational institutions to self-publish textbooks, the sky will be the limit.

"Right now, a teacher could get a textbook off 'iTunes U', customize it with videos, PowerPoint presentations and other options for their students to use," Thompson explained.

"This is the future; we are at the top of the game!" He will be working with teachers to get more training for them about iTunes U, so the district can better use the world's largest online catalog of free education content.

Improvements to gym noted

When discussing the bills, District Accountant Tanya Elton said that new padding had recently been installed in the gymnasium with great graphics and covers. The money for that project came from the Spring Grove Athletic Boosters and money left over from last year's girls state basketball trip.

This summer, dust will be removed from all vents in the gymnasium, and the possibility of painting the walls is also being looked at.

In a related matter, Udstuen explained that administration is taking input from a committee to help prioritize possible improvement projects to be funded from an estate bequest.

"We are collecting information; nothing is set in stone. Putting in a new gym floor is one possibility. We hope to bring a recommendation to the board for its April meeting," she added.

In December, the board was notified of the $31,885 donation from the estate of Betty Bretz (formally Bessie Quinnell), a 1937 Spring Grove graduate. She had requested that the money go towards extracurricular activities.