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Aging technology
Hartselle students use older computers; board discusses fees

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Almost five years after the city school board increased out-of-district tuition to replace aging computers, the problem is worse.

When students report for classes next month, they’ll find that 53 percent of the computers they use are more than five years old.

That’s up from 2002 when 47 percent of the system’s 714 computers were five years old or older.

So, how does this happen in a system the community calls one of the best in the state?

Superintendent William Michael Reed said when he took office an agreement was in place to use technology funds to rebuild infrastructure rather than to purchase computers.

The $60,000 that out-of-district fees generate will be included as a budgetary item in 2007-08, and will be used to buy computers, Reed said.

“This will change the numbers,” the superintendent said.

Former board Chairman Ronnie Abercrombie, who pushed to increase out-of-district fees for technology, is unhappy about the situation.

He said Hartselle’s technology funding was in the bottom 10 percent in the state in 2002.

“It’s sad that the system has gotten back in this situation with old computers,” Abercrombie said. “Our kids deserve better.”

In 2002, about 60 percent of the computers could not run Internet technology.

Hartselle schools don’t have a problem connecting to the Internet, but the aging computers are slow, teachers say.

Reed said he has not received complaints from teachers.

“My feeling is that as long as a (computer) is running the software, it’s doing its job,” the superintendent said.

Hartselle used the first tuition increase money in 2003 to purchase 77 computers. But, in December 2004, the system’s wireless network crashed and had to be replaced.

The system used local money to rebuild the network, but pledged to keep the tuition fees until that debt was repaid to the General Fund.

This meant three years with only minimal computer purchases, school records show.

According to the system records, 8 percent of Hartselle’s 886 computers are under warranty.

Another 39 percent are three to five years old.

Abercrombie said parents should not accept this. He worries that the situation will worsen since the board amended the policy that guarantees a portion of out-of-district money will be spent on technology.

“This is one of the worst things the board has done since it amended the drug-testing policy,” Abercrombie said.

Reed said the school system will have a technology budget of at least $60,000 next year and in succeeding years.

“The money will be in the budget next year,” he said. “I guarantee that.”

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