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Local teachers selected to review online materials as SSISD enters ‘new age’

Three local science teachers will be helping make a little history by reviewing and recommending supplemental science materials in a fully electronic format available only online.

Sulphur Springs teachers Amber Nix at Douglas Intermediate School; Karen Phillips with Sulphur Springs Middle School; and Kirsten Herschler at Sulphur Springs High School, will serve as the “2011 Local Instructional Materials Adoption Committee for Supplemental Science.” Superintendent Patsy Bolton will chair the committee.

“This is the first [Texas Education Agency] adoption that is fully electronic — online only,” district textbook coordinator Tommy Panter noted in his committee recommendation to the board of trustees. “These members, with input from other applicable staff members, will review samples of approved programs and submit recommendations to the board.”

Assistant Superintendent Randy Reed likened the move to “going into a new age, in a situation we’ve not been in before.”

“There’s a lot of information to receive. The committee will review all supplemental material online,” said Reed. “It’s exciting, but scary, too.”

The online-only materials are the result of Senate Bill 6, which provides funding that would let districts purchase digital content and technological equipment in place of textbooks.

A certain amount of funding for which enrolling districts could apply has been designated through the Educational Materials System. The State’s Commissioner of Education announced 70 percent of the allotment will be credited this year and the remaining 30 percent next year, with any remaining funding carried forward to the next school year and biennium.

Allotments are based on enrollment and whether the district had a 10 percent enrollment growth averaged over three years.

Sulphur Springs qualifies for $621,471 over the two-year period — $435,029 this year and $186,442 next year.

Panter explained that the district doesn’t actually receive any of the money — schools select their materials and the state takes care of paying the fees. Districts just provide information on how much of the allotment they intend to spend on which programs.

While the state gives districts an allotment to download the materials, the district is responsible for providing devices to use the software. While the science teachers are reviewing the supplemental materials, another district panel is expected to be formed to do research the technical side.

Superintendent Patsy Bolton said there are many device options available.

“Technology is changing so fast,” she said. “We were originally talking about the Kindle, but there are also iPad and laptops and others.”

Reed said district personnel would likely seek advice from other school districts  regarding the best value for technology.

“We want what’s most cost-effective for the life of the devices, which can be $400 to $600 each,” Reed told school board trustees.

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