Waiting to buy

A technology upgrade that could benefit special education students in the Warren County School District might have to wait until the budget picture clears up before it can be purchased

Director of Pupil Services Patricia Hawley-Horner outlined the FrontRow Juno which, according to an executive summary presented to the school district’s board of directors, is a “digital multi-speaker voice amplification system with a lesson capture feature.”

“The benefits of Juno include voice amplification to help students listen more clearly in a classroom where acoustics may not necessarily be optimal. Juno also has the capacity to make a video of teacher and student voices which can then be posted for student/parent viewing,” the summary states.

Currently, the district utilized Redcat sound amplification devices for students who are identified with that specific need. Hawley-Horner said the need for such service is increasing and the “service will need to follow with the program” as students move from elementary to middle through high school.

One of the reasons it was presented now was that the warranty is running out on the district’s Redcat devices. Hawley-Horner explained that the most cost effective option is to purchase new devices and the Juno was discovered as a result of a search into what else might be available.

Administration proposed that the devices be placed in classrooms at Warren Area Elementary Center and Youngsville Elementary Middle School to service students in kindergarten, speech therapy, life skills, autistic support, emotional support and, generally, in first through eighth grades.

Total cost which administration proposed to split among three separate special education accounts – IDEA, ACCESS and Early Intervention – is $114,000.

Models have been tested at the two district schools. “They’ve been up and running with these and we really haven’t gotten any negative (feedback),” Hawley-Horner said.

“This product is allowing us to make multimedia files pretty much on the fly,” Brian Collopy, coordinator of technology/information management, said. “This really makes it nice and easy (and) doesn’t require a lot of training.”

Board President Arthur Stewart, asking if this item could be included in the budget process, asked if there “are other items that are more compelling just to meet basic needs.”

Board member John Grant raised an additional concern. “A Redcat does not provide a permanent record of teacher behavior,” he said. “This machine does. If you fail to spend time with your union… (I’m) concerned about potential use in the evaluation process.”

The committee moved the item to the full board for consideration at its May meeting.