AUGUSTA — School board members discussing the proposed $30.8 million school budget said they think the budget should include funding to hire an information technology director dedicated to helping teachers use technology more effectively in their classrooms.

Currently the schools rely on city staffers to provide oversight of technology and run the network of computers and other devices used by students and staff during the school day, a service for which the schools are budgeted to pay the city $104,000 for the year.

Some school board members said during a budget workshop Wednesday they’d like to see the schools hire someone who would be on-site in the schools to work with teachers, and students, to integrate technology into classrooms better.

“I’ve been concerned about what’s out there (for technology) and what our students are able to experience because there isn’t somebody who is presenting new technologies to them,” said Pia Holmes, board member.

Superintendent James Anastasio said if it is the will of the board to add funding for such a position, he would do so.

Jason Barsani, board member, suggested money to pay for an IT person could be saved by buying fewer laptops for students. He said the push, over the last several years, to provide each student in the school system with a laptop or similar device was a noble goal, but some students aren’t using those devices often and many have their own devices anyway.

Tom Connors, board member, agreed on the need for an IT director and said Augusta should hire a curriculum coordinator to address what he said were student test scores that showed low proficiency in some areas.

He said to pay for those positions, he has ideas for other positions in the school system that could be cut, so the new hires could be cost-neutral to the budget.

Augusta previously had a curriculum coordinator, but the position was eliminated in 2012, with an assistant superintendent’s position taking its place.

The proposed $30.8 million budget is up by about 6 percent over the current year and would require about $1.1 million more from local taxpayers, an 8.6 percent increase.

School administrators said the budget would initiate their new three-year goal of decreasing class sizes in elementary schools. Superintendent James Anastasio said that in some cases, there are as many as 26 students in a class.

Anastasio said administrators’ goals in crafting the budget also included maintaining existing positions and resources at all schools; continuing efforts to distribute resources equally among the city’s four elementary schools; adding a mathematics and science position at Cony High School; adding an elementary resource room teacher for special education; adding two elementary school social workers, one for schools on each side of the river; and getting new computers for students in grades five through eight, and new laptops for grades seven to 12 teachers and Capital Area Technical Center teachers.

The budget includes about $230,000 to install air conditioning on the second floors of the three elementary schools that have second floors — $100,000 at Farrington, $70,000 at Gilbert and $58,000 at Lincoln. The single-floor Hussey Elementary, which school officials have applied for state funding to replace, would not get air conditioning.

Jon Stonier, buildings and grounds director, said second-floor rooms in the elementary schools would be air-conditioned by heat pumps, likely mounted on the wall, similar to units used in homes.

Chris Clarke, board member, questioned the $110,000 budgeted to pay the city to maintain the school district’s lawns, athletic fields and other grounds. He said city workers do a good job maintaining the fields and other outdoor areas, but a landscaping company may bid to do the same work, or the school staff could do the work, for less money.

Stonier said the schools would have to hire at least two workers to maintain the fields; purchase tractors, mowers and other equipment; and find or build space to store the equipment. He also said city staff members are responsive and flexible and can provide a crew of workers on short notice, such as when sports schedules change.

Anastasio said Augusta’s schools have a reputation for well-maintained fields, because of the work of city grounds crews, and that reputation helps draw organizations that rent the fields for events, such as state tournaments.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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