Some Kiona-Benton School Board members question future computer upgrades

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldJuly 29, 2013 

BENTON CITY -- Computer technology in education was a major topic of discussion of the Kiona-Benton City School Board on Monday night.

The board approved a $15.6 million budget during its regular meeting, but a few members asked what is going to be done about upgrading the district's computer systems in the future.

District administrators said they're aware of the pressure to maintain and improve the wireless networks and hardware used by students and staff. A plan is being developed, but it will take time and money to carry out.

Like other school districts, Ki-Be is benefiting from the extra $1 billion contributed to K-12 education by the Legislature as required by the Washington Supreme Court. The district is one of several in the Mid-Columbia receiving funding for all-day kindergarten, one of the key targets of state lawmakers.

More money is expected to come to the district in future years as the state complies with a court order requiring adequate education funding. Ki-Be board member Dan Raap said he wants to see a plan outlining how the district will support its computer technology as that money comes in.

Superintendent Rom Castilleja and technology director Troy Jamieson said the district's technology is strained. Some of the servers were bought in the 1990s and are beginning to fail.

The district is now faced with either replacing them with new units that are similar but obsolete, or upgrading. Either option is costly, officials said.

"We're quickly approaching a point in time where we don't have enough infrastructure," Castilleja said.

Jamieson said the problem will get worse as standardized student testing shifts to an online format.

"We're going to be in a world of hurt when it comes to logistics," Jamieson said.

Castilleja said the district is looking for ways beyond state dollars to pay for the technology improvements, including grants. He told the board he would come back with more information on those efforts at the board's regular meeting in late September.

In other business Monday, the district's transportation and maintenance director remains on unpaid administrative leave, weeks after he pleaded innocent to allegations he stole district property and sold it on eBay.

School board Chairman Tim Cook said the board has had some discussions about Mark Noyes' future with the district, but no decision has been made. Noyes' contract expires Aug. 31.

Board member Wayne Elston reported the alleged thefts of school district to the Benton County Sheriff's Office in April, according to court documents.

Heating and cooling system control panels were sold for $300 by the seller "charming*impressions." The account was registered to Noyes.

Investigators reviewed the seller's eBay membership profile and found ads for two of the control panels and a ream of paper.

Noyes admitted to authorities that he took the control panels and the ream of paper and sold them, court documents said. He also admitted to taking a 35mm camera and selling it for $35.

Noyes is free on his own recognizance and has a trial set for Oct. 7.

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