MINOT – School committee members from School Union 29 towns received lessons in technology Monday as they approved plans and contracts to modernize their schools and central office.

School Union 29, which consists of Minot, Mechanic Falls and Poland, now has a three-year technology plan for improvements in administration, student instruction and parent access to information.

Desktop computers in the Union 29 administrative offices will receive a thorough cleaning, along with regular monthly maintenance, which previously had been neglected.

And the administrative office, which according to staff is one of four in the state still on an obsolete computer system, will convert to Windows and be compatible with the State Department of Education’s system.

To pay for these moves, elected officials agreed to use money left from the 2003-04 budget, to reallocate money budgeted for 2004-2005, and to borrow money in the form of a lease-purchase agreement against the 2006 budget.

Linda Chaisson, technology coordinator for Poland’s middle and high schools, already had spent much of her spare time trouble-shooting for school union’s office. The $2,400 contract approved Monday will allow Chaisson and computer technician Dave Haley to provide regular maintenance one Saturday a month for a year.

School officials also approved another $1,000 to pay Chaisson and Haley for an estimated 40 hours of intense computer purging before the regularly scheduled maintenance can begin.

“We weren’t looking for another job,” said Chaisson. “We did this assessment at central office because we wanted to help out, and there had been no one to service their desktop systems.”

An additional $2,400 was approved to pay for the repair and retrieval of special education files on a system that recently crashed.

To get in sync with the State Department of Education, committee members at the joint school union session gave finance director Stacie Everett authority to negotiate financing for approximately $23,000 in new software that will allow administrators to send reports and data to Augusta.

As for the school union’s required technology plan, Poland School Committee member Jack Conway repeatedly emphasized that he wanted no strings attached by endorsing the plan.

“If I vote for this, that means that there are no expenditures unless we specifically approve them,” said Conway.

“I understand the need for a plan, but I want to be clear that this doesn’t come back to haunt us, and that the state or federal government isn’t going to withhold their funds,” he said.

Assistant Superintendent Bill Doughty explained that having a technology plan is required in order to receive state or federal funding. However, Chaisson explained that the state officials only check to see that schools have a plan and not whether it has been implemented. She added that federal officials never see the plan but rely on the state’s endorsement.

Monday’s meeting, originally scheduled for June 15, followed a revised agenda. During the public portion of the meeting, no mention was made of the agreement among Minot, Mechanic Falls and Poland to build a new administrative office for $250,000 as part of a Poland town public works construction project, although Superintendent Nina Schlikin referred to an update already made to committee members.

The committees later went into executive session to discuss the contracts for the assistant superintendent, director of adult education, finance director, director of operations, director of special education, psychologist and psychological examiner.

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