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Tech Levy Goes To Voters In April

School board unanimously approves measure

A three-year, $600,000 property tax levy to fund an overhaul of the White Salmon Valley School District's technology program will go before voters next month.

The local school board approved the terms and amount, and a resolution scheduling the vote-by-mail special election for April 22 during its Feb. 20 board meeting.

The proposal voters will pass judgment on calls for the levying of $200,000 per year for three years (the 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years) at a rate of approximately 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation in the first year and 16 cents per $1,000 in the second and third years.

For the owner of a home assessed by the county at $200,000, the levy would cost about $34 in year one and roughly $33 in years two and three.

Superintendent Dale Palmer said the technology levy--the first of its kind in the school district's history--will pay for much more than contemporary computing systems.

"Classroom teachers throughout the district will be provided with the tools and professional development they need to teach students how to use the latest technology for educational purposes," he said.

"The only solution if we want to keep the district's technology program current," he added, "is to bring everything up to date in an orderly process. And that's what we plan to accomplish with this levy."

To explain what the levy will pay for (and why it wasn't included under last month's maintenance and operations levy request), the school district plans to mail out a special four-page edition of its Bear News newsletter to voters around March 24.

The district's three-year technology plan, as outlined in the newsletter, would support the acquisition of the following at each of the schools:

Columbia High School would get 170 student desktop computers, 20 teacher laptops, 10 desktops for the administrative office, a laptop and a desktop computer for the library and 10 network printers, plus a scanner, digital camera, digital video camera and poster printer.

Wayne M. Henkle Middle School would acquire 112 student desktops, 22 teacher laptops. eight desktops for the administrative office and 10 network printers.

Hulan L. Whitson Elementary School would receive 70 student desktop computers and 24 laptops for teachers and administrative personnel.

In addition, the technology plan would provide for five new network servers throughout the district, five desktop computers for the district office, video surveillance systems for 16 buses, 35 classroom projects and document cameras, 15 wireless access points, 28 Active Board/wireless projector units, staff training in the use of the new technology, and a contract for technical support.

Most of the money in the first year of the tech plan's implementation ($68,000) will be spent to bring Whitson's computers up to date. Palmer said that's because Whitson has the oldest equipment.

"The computers we bought with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are now eight years old, and the donated ones we've received through a state program called Computers for Kids are four to five years old," Palmer noted.

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