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Home News-Telegram News School: SSISD to host summer staff conference

School: SSISD to host summer staff conference

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Sulphur Springs school trustees, after discussion, approved expenditures for a summer staff development conference. A decision regarding purchase of a Rocket web filter and My Big Campus program from Light Speed was postponed pending further information.

“This group has us in an awkward spot, but it’d just be great to take advantage of it. We have a filtering system we get through the consortium with Region 8 for free. Rodney [White, technology coordinator] was told we will not get it soon for free. The company sells the filter system, My Big Campus, an organizational piece of software,” Sulphur Springs Independent School District Superintendent Michael Lamb explained to trustees regarding the filter and program during the November board meeting.

Lamb said officials expect to lose the free Region 8 system this summer if not before, although those who tipped local technology staff off to the pending change did not have a firm date for when the system will cease being free. Also, it’s unclear what if any system would be offered through Region 8, and at what cost.

The Light Speed company contacted school officials, offering the Rocket web filter and My Big Campus system, but requiring a three-year contract. Signing up now would also mean SSISD would get the service the last six months of this school year for free. It’d also mean double coverage for the first six months, with both the free system and the new one available for use should there be any difficulties with either. The proposed system is comparable to that being provided by Region 8 and would work with the Google system the district currently has, Lamb noted.

“For that cost, would My Big Campus be fully operational or a scaled down version?” asked SSISD Board of Education President Kerry Wright.

“It would be fully operational,” Lamb said.

“It’s a pretty important service to get,” said board member John Prickette.

“What’s the advantage of this one over that one?” board Secretary Tammy Cooper asked of the Region 8 and proposed system.

“We might have to pay for the Region 8 filter and look for program equipment,” Lamb said. “It’s a good deal to get the two systems at once. We’ve got to have something like this whether its a filter and Google, a different filter or a filter and different system.”

“It’d be good to know what the regular offer is, if it’ll be the same,” Prickette added.

“The key offer is email. We’ve had to do our own. We were offered DMAC until now. We switched to Eduphoria. They’d give us something and we use it. This is definitely a lot better,” Lamb said.

“Can we table it and think about it? Two board members are not here,” said trustee Jacquelyn Brice, referring to Jason Dietze and Lesa Toliver, who were unable to attend the November school board meeting. “We’re having a hard time. Maybe we should think about it a little bit and come back to it next time.”

Ultimately, trustees decided to postpone the decision, asking Lamb to have White gather more information about potential options through Region 8 and the Rocket web filter/My Big Campus program from Light Speed.

In other business, trustees approved on a 4-1 vote, with board Vice President Don Sapaugh casting the descenting vote, for SSISD to host a training conference for up to 300 educators at Hopkins County Regional Civic Center this summer. The session would be telecast with some live sessions.

Normally, the district would pay about $625 per person to attend these 2 1/2 day conferences at other locations. Administrators estimate that by hosting it, the cost would actually equal out to about $225-$300 per person for professional development for district staff. Educators from neighboring schools would also be invited to attend the session, which would save them some funds, too.

Lamb said the idea to host the session came from other schools being able to “telecast in” to the conference SSISD educators attended this year in San Antonio. Doing so would mean paying a lot less for the main sessions SSISD administrators want district educators to attend, and cut down the need for travel, accommodations and related expenses.

Approximately 200 to 250 of educators attending the summer PLC training would be SSISD staff, the rest from neighboring districts.

Lamb and Cooper said the PLC training would be presented by Richard and Rebecca DuFour and their associate, who would speak during what would be “breakout” workshops; they heard them over the summer in San Antonio. The DuFour’s primary focus is promotion of collaboration — not doing things in isolation but working together to meet all objectives, and how to achieve that goal.

Sapaugh asked if those attending a locally hosted conference would receive the exact same things they would if they attended the conference.

“We’d get the exact thing we got this summer. The speakers will be the same, Rick and Becky DuFour. It’s an on-sight conference as well as a telecast. There’d be no hotels, buses, no meals we would have to pay for,” Lamb said.

“How would you determine which 250 teachers attend?” Cooper asked.

“We’ll try to get as many as we can. There will be 30 to 40 who are on vacation. If there are more, we’ll find a way. We just need to get it nailed down so we can let them reserve the day,” Lamb said. “It’s two days in the summer — basically the two Thanksgiving exchange days.”

“So it’s $47,000 for a webinar for 300 people? It sounds like a webinar,” Sapaugh queried.

“It’s not a webinar. It will be incredible,” Lamb said.

“What’s the difference versus going?” Prickette asked.

Lamb explained that the LaFours are giving the keynote addresses daily as well as some breakout sessions. Staff attending the Sulphur Springs conference would hear all of the LaFours sessions along with the other main featured session given by their associate. Break-out sessions are conducted by level: elementary, middle school, high school.

Essentially, the conference would mean fewer options for choice of break-out workshops, which educators generally select based on their individual specialized interests and fields, as well as fewer educators with which to network. Lamb said the Professional Learning Community training would focus on the areas that SSISD educators most need and that are most in keeping with the central focus for the conference and district goals.

“So, essentially, they don’t get breakouts and some networking?” Prickette asked.

“They’ll hear exactly what we heard over the summer and all be on the same page,” Lamb said.  “The best people are tapping into this. We want to be great — extraordinary.”

"It’s a lot of common sense, but they do not necessarily recommend doing for all districts. We do not have PLC. You can’t explain the way they explain it. All teachers need to participate in it,” Cooper said.

“I schedule a lot of staff development. The fee is $200 to $500 per person. We are looking at a number 300 multiplier for a great conference. I think this will help move us along in the district with an improved professional learning community and move faster to improve the quality of the end project,” SSISD Assistant Superintendent Betty Lawson said.

Sapaugh asked if the cost of the venue and other conference-related expenses were included in the overall rate or would be additional cost for the district.

Trustees approved expenditures for the DuFours Professional Learning Communities summer staff development 4-1, with Sapaugh voting against the measure, noting the overall costs and responsibility as well as limitations of the conference.




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