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Grant error discussed by EACS board

– Some East Allen County Schools board members expressed concerns Tuesday about a mistake cited by the state that cost the district $140,400.

EACS recently paid that amount out of its general fund to the state Department of Education for a grant the district received. According to a DOE audit, the district used the money improperly.

Kirby Stahly, assistant superintendent for administrative services and business management, said the grant was used for teacher training and to buy materials for students, but it was to be used only for teacher training.

Board Vice President Chris Baker said he was deeply bothered that the district has these issues and that no one has been held accountable. Other members made similar statements. Board President Neil Reynolds said he learned of the audit findings on Feb. 28, the day before former Superintendent Karyle Green’s last day.

The purchase was made in June 2011, Stahly said, but the district didn’t receive notification from the DOE that it had made an improper purchase with the grant funds until February. The audit was performed in December 2012, Stahly said.

The district has opted not to hire an interim superintendent while it searches for a new leader for next school year. The district provided Green a package worth more than $200,000 to leave March 1 instead of remaining until her contract expired on June 30, 2014.

Also Tuesday, the board heard a presentation from the district’s technology department about how its iPad initiative started and how far it has come in just one year of implementation.

This school year, EACS instituted a one-to-one initiative that gave all students in grades 6-12 an iPad they could take home.

Students in grades K-5 also have iPads available for use in the classroom but do not take the devices home. Next year, sixth-grade students also leave their devices at school.

The department manages about 15,000 devices and a wireless network with about 1,000 access points, according to Bill Diehl, director of accountability and computer services.

Board members heard about how teachers and students are benefiting from the availability of the devices in the classroom.

An English as a second language teacher from Heritage Junior-Senior High School told board members about how she can tailor instruction and tests to individual students without making them feel different from their peers.

She said iPads provide resources like bilingual dictionaries at students’ fingertips and have increased student engagement.

Coaches and technology staff have also conducted training sessions for teachers to help guide them in using the devices in the classroom. The district has employed a gradual rollout, allowing teachers to incorporate the use of the devices into the classroom at their own pace but providing assistance when needed.