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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

High Tech Lunch Line and more electronic devices at Salem Schools

Monday, March 5, 2012

(Photo)
Tyler Blair pays for his lunch by entering an I-D number into a terminal before going through the food line at Salem High School. The Etrition software eliminates the need for real money and a cashier. Photo by Richard Irby [Order this photo]
Technology issues were the main topics of discussion at the Feb. 20 Salem School Board meeting.

"On Feb. 1, we made the transition to new nutrition record keeping software," Superintendent Ken Rich told the board. "The biggest change that has occurred is in the high school, where students now punch in their I-D as they go through the lunch line, and that's working quite well after a couple of days of being slower than normal."

The program, which is called Etrition, includes a terminal at the start of the food service line which eliminates the need for diners to pay cash and receive change from a cashier.

In the elementary school, the teacher in each classroom takes a count of how many students plan to eat the school lunch, and the information is entered by a touch screen and sent to the cafeteria.

EZSchoolPay is another program now available to make paying for student lunches easier.

"This is an option that parents can use," Rich explained. "EZSchoolPay allows you to pay lunch fees by credit card, through a link on the Salem School website."

Parents access and register for EZSchoolPay by clicking on the "For Parent" section of the website. After setting up an account by using a student's I-D number, parents can put money in their child's lunch account by credit card.

There is a $3 "convenience fee" for each time the site is used, but parents can make payments for more than one child during the visit. For example, putting $20 in four children's accounts would cost $83 - $20 deposits into each student's account, plus a $3 service fee.

The EZSchoolPay website calls the service, "The easy, convenient and secure way to pay for school meals."

"We have had interest from some parents who wanted to pay for school meals by credit card," said Rich. "We will see how much it is used.

The website notes the $3 service fee is designed to help schools "cover or offset the normal costs of processing credit card transactions and other costs associated with maintaining a credit card merchant account."

According to Rich, the new lunch software has more capabilities than a system previously used, and the previous system was not supported by the manufacturer any more, making it difficult to get assistance when technical help was needed.

Under the system which was replaced, an employee scanned a student's I-D card to electronically collect the payment for meals.

During the meeting, the board met a state requirement by approving a 2012 to 2015 technology plan. The plan, prepared by Shaun Windsor, the school system's technology coordinator, sets goals to continue incorporating new technology into the classroom, and establish a budget for purchases.

"Because technology changes so fast, it is hard to guess what's going happen three years from now," Rich said. "It is a guess, because of the way things change."

By 2015, the plan proposes being ready for an expected one-to-one initiative, which would require that every student has access to a device.

"We have added many computers and devices but we think, before three years are up, that we will probably see a push for each student to have their own type of device," Rich told the board. "I don't know what that will be - a tablet or laptop."

Rich said he recently made a visit to Searcy schools as part of an Advanced Education team, and Salem Schools compared favorably to Searcy schools, which have a reputation for "great technology in its district."

The Salem schools technology inventory includes 190 computers in the high school, 140 computers in the elementary school, and 100 i-pads in both buildings. All classrooms also have interactive "white boards," that project lessons or video onto a screen, which teachers and students can see and use.

During the meeting, Rich told the board the results of a state audit of the system were favorable.

Rich has proposed a corrective action plan for five "material weaknesses" that were identified.

The weaknesses, which come up yearly, are caused by the fact that Salem's business office has only two employees and the superintendent, making it difficult to provide safeguards larger school systems use to control the deposit and disbursement of funds.

Rich said he asked an auditor how the school system can eliminate the yearly finding and was told some school systems with four, five and six business office employees "can't get off the finding."

"We'll just have to address (the issue) and do the best we can to segregate our duties as much as possible with the staff members we have." Rich said.

At the end of the meeting, the board went into closed session to discuss the performance of Elementary School Principal Corey Johnson and High School Principal Wayne Guiltner.

When the board went back into regular session, it was announced that Johnson and Guiltner's contracts have been renewed for next school year.

Because the regular meeting date for March falls during spring break, the meeting has been moved to March 15 at 7 p.m. Meetings take place in the Superintendent's office and the public is invited to attend.



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