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School board balks on new cameras
System's tech spending re-evaluated
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Forsyth County News

The Forsyth County Board of Education appears to have draw the line on technology spending for five schools the district plans to open this fall.

Classrooms in each of the schools -- three elementary, one middle and one high school -- will receive interactive whiteboards after the school board approved the plan, which will cost $341,250.

But the board voted Thursday against spending nearly $67,000 to buy 660 Canon PowerShot digital cameras for the new schools.

Purchasing coordinator Brad Richardson asked the board to approve the purchase, noting it was "simply adhering to the standard that we've already set" at the system's other schools.

Board member Mike Dudgeon thought the funding, which was included in the school system's current 1-cent sales tax, could be better spent elsewhere.

"I understand we've done this for all our schools before, but at some point, you have to, when times get tough ... you have to re-evaluate whether the way we've done everything in the past has to continue forward," he said.

"I'm sure it's beneficial, but if [the sales tax] was on the ballot now and people were [scrolling] down the list of projects in this current environment, and they saw digital cameras, we'd probably get a lot more pushback."

The cameras would have been spread evenly across all five schools, with each grade level receiving a set of 30.

Bailey Mitchell, the system's chief technology and information officer, said the cameras inspire creativity and teamwork, and would follow the same standard in place at the county's 30 other schools.

As a result of the vote, each of the existing schools likely will have to contribute some of their cameras to the new campuses.

In the end, Richardson said, each school will maintain an even number of cameras per grade level.

The board did approve more than $485,000 in bids for printers, projectors and scanners to be used in classrooms, all from sales tax funds.

But when it came time to approve the purchase of 985 notebook computers and 2,160 desktop computers for the five new schools, Dudgeon again had concerns.

"Instead of using the exact same formula we've used in the past for opening schools, this is our opportunity to do some shuffling," he said. "Together these two motions are $2 million. So can we save $500,000 by some creativity? I don't know the answer to that."

The proposed $787,000 for notebooks and $1.2 million for desktop computers with 17-inch flat-screen monitors would come from a combination of sales tax and bond money.

But the board voted to table the issue until its meeting Thursday in the hopes of finding a new arrangement, such as shifting less frequently used computers to the new schools or sharing systems between teachers.

"We're trying to save money here," said new board member Darla Sexton Light. "I don't want to put anybody where they feel like they're suffering, but I think there might be some places that we can [save]."