El Dorado Hills Firm gets $500,000 to bring Wi-Fi to Vacaville Unified Schools for Common Core testing
The work - a specific, one-time expense funded by Gov. Jerry Brown's Local Control Funding Formula - also will include increasing the amount of electrical power available to some school sites to meet the testing demands of the Common Core State Standards. (Approved by 45 states and the District of Columbia, the standards define the knowledge, concepts and skills students should have at each grade level.)
The project will be done in two phases. The first is expected to be completed in April, when the first of the new tests, in trial runs, will be administered in third through eighth grades and the 11th grade, Mark Frazier, the district's chief academic officer, told the governing board during its regular meeting in the Educational Services Center. The second phase will be completed during summer.
In comments to the board, David Robertson, a former school district employee with expertise in technology, urged trustees to spend money on increasing wi-fi access rather than hard-wired desktop computers, since wi-fi devices are increasingly becoming the standard way to tap into the Internet.
His statements gradually appeared to sway trustees, sparking lengthy debate and spawning additional questions and concerns before the seven board members unanimously voted to approve a contract with Roebbelen Contractors Inc.
Robertson, alluding to trustee remarks about adequate desktop screen sizes, said the 12,500-student district has a far greater issue than just the types of computers needed for testing.
"The bigger problem is the lack of funding for technology," he said, adding, "The (existing computer) labs are outdated for what we need to do. Screen size is not the issue."
Trustee David McCallum worried that approving a sizable contract for upgrades to computer classrooms, furniture and software "may tie" the district to buying technology that is outdated and prove to be wasteful.
Before he voted, trustee Chris Flask argued that no matter what decision the board made, "the reality is, change is coming and how we use technology."
Trustees eventually pressed Ken Johnson, the district's director of information and technology, and Leigh Coop, the district's director of facilities, to abandon their arguments for the original contract wording and agree to a pilot program that would increase wi-fi access at several schools.
In response, Coop alluded to a Jan. 22 community meeting to gather public input about school facility needs and a possible general obligation bond election in November, the money from which would be used to upgrade some aging school sites
Trustee Michael Kitzes called the discussion "an important conversation," and, in an interview after the meeting, noted that not all of the $500,000 contract money will be used.
Follow Reporter Staff Writer Richard Bammer at Twitter.com/REBammer.