By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
The USD 480 web page could see some upgrades after some heavy discussion by the USD 480 school board at its most recent meeting Monday evening.
Currently, the district uses Gabbart Communications as the Web site provider, and BlackBoard, Inc. as the AlertNow provider. The subject of the discussion Monday evening was whether or not to approve Gabbart as the web page and parent communication provider.
“Gabbart has helped us implement the web page, this is going to help go to their upgrades, which will help make the site more friendly for like cell phones and other devices,” Director of Business Jerry Clay said. “That way, if you load it up on an iPhone or any phone, it’ll shrink it down so you can view it easier on a smaller device. They’re the ones we’ve been using, and they helped us design our web page.”
Board member Nick Hatcher then asked who is responsible for upgrading the USD 480 web site, to which Superintendent Renae Hickert said there is no one person in charge of all maintenance required.
“It depends on what you’re talking about,” Hickert said. “Overall, there’s a member of the technology department in charge of that, but the teachers are in charge of their own pages for the most part, they’re in charge of their own calendars and information they’re supposed to put on there.”
Hatcher then talked about some of the many complaints he has heard from citizens regarding the USD 480 web page.
“I get comments from the community from time to time about how the Web site’s outdated, the information’s from like 2015, or they can’t find a calendar or some other thing,” Hatcher said. “There are some pretty big issues, and one of the first things, when we’re trying to recruit, or attract families to the community, the Web site is probably one of the first things they look at, and if we’re trying to impress those people and tell them we’re up to speed with our technology … we spend a lot of time and money on technology, but our Web site is not even close to being where it should be. So what are we going to do about that? We need to get on top of this.”
Hickert said there are many factors at play, including finding someone to spend the majority of their time maintaining the Web site, and making sure the teachers keep their individual pages up to date, among many others. Clay also talked about how the district has the two different systems currently, and said going to just Gabbart now, as it offers the services of both the programs, would be better in the long run. Discussion among the board members continued, with the main concerns coming back around to recruitment and attracting new people.
“I think the web site’s cluttered, you can’t find anything when you first click on it,” Board Member Travis Combs said. “I would be interested in the different layouts and other functions we could use.”
“The plan is, with their future one, to reduce the number of clicks to get where you need to,” Clay replied.
“I just want something that functions and looks good,” Hatcher added. “It’s not where it should be. I don’t care what the solution is, I want a solution.”
After some more discussion, the board ultimately unanimously approved Gabbart Communications as the USD 480 web page and parent communication provider for $20,845 for the first year.
There were also a few other items the board approved, including the installation of new playground equipment and exit doors at the upcoming new Early Learning Center, which will be in the current Southlawn Elementary School building with space rented by the Kansas Children’s Service League and HeadStart. The initial proposal had been brought up at the board’s last meeting April 3, and the purchase of the equipment was ultimately unanimously approved, with Hickert saying there have been several entities expressing interest in purchasing the equipment currently at Southlawn.
The board also unanimously approved the purchase of die cut equipment for equipment. The purchase includes five VanQuest cutout makers ($42,975), and five poster makers ($13,975), for a total purchase of $57,375. Hickert showed an example of a poster made by these machines to the board members, leading to the unanimous approval. Funding will come from the building budgets and the Local Option Budget, and the equipment will be purchased from Kansas City AudioVisual.
Also unanimously approved with very quick discussion was the purchase of 20 computers for the USD 480 Food Services staff through the Two Trees state contract for a total of $12,700. The board also approved an additional nursing position for USD 480 (which will allow the allocation of one nurse per school building), and accepted a bid from Keating Tractor and Equipment for the purchase of two Hustler zero-turn 72-inch mowers for $11,000 each. The nursing position was approved by a margin of 5-0, with board members Matt Friederich and Cliff absent from the vote, and the mowers were approved 6-0, with Abbott absent from the vote.