Shelton fourth grade classes are next to get interactive boards

The city schools plan to soon purchase 38 more Promethean boards, with the goal being to have one of the interactive boards in all core curriculum classrooms in the fourth to 12th grades.

Many classrooms at Shelton High, Shelton Intermediate and Perry Hill (fifth and sixth grades) already have the boards, but the new purchase will fill in any gaps and also put the technology in fourth grades at elementary schools.

The Board of Education (BOE) recently asked the Board of Aldermen for a bid waiver to buy the Promethean boards, but the request was tabled after questions were raised about why a waiver was needed.

Alderman Jack Finn, a Democrat, asked why BOE officials were saying they didn’t think a lower price could be secured through the bidding process.

“How do they know that if they don’t go out to bid?” Finn said.

Work from previous bid waiver

Mayor Mark Lauretti, a Republican, said the BOE likely was worried about the time involved in using the bidding process.

Lauretti suggested the Promethean boards probably could be purchased by working with the bid waiver from the last purchase.

Later, it was concluded the new Promethean boards could be purchased through the previous bid waiver by again using a vendor on a state-approved list.

“The purchase order is ready to go,” School Supt. Freeman Burr said a day later, after the situation was worked out.

Popular addition at the schools

Promethean boards are interactive whiteboards used by teachers. Promethean is a brand name, with Smart Board being another company that makes a similar product.

The boards are essentially large computer screens in the front of a classroom that allow for everything from Internet videos to touch-screen movement.

Students are given individual responders (like TV remotes) to provide answers to questions, with real-time discussion of the answers they give.

The boards have proven extremely popular with students and teachers. Educators praise them as an integral part of today’s learning process, with most youngsters used to working with similar technology at home.

Decreasing cost of the boards

The city’s current fiscal year 2013-14 budget includes $100,000 to buy Promethean boards for the BOE. Two already have been purchased and installed at Sunnyside School, Burr said, and now 38 more will be bought.

The city has five elementary schools, and this new purchase means all core curriculum classrooms in the fourth grade should get the technology.

In 2012-13, the city provided $200,000 to buy the boards.

In upcoming 2014-15 there will be $75,000 available, and the goal is to buy at least 13 new boards so all third grade classrooms in the city will have them.

They are being used in core curriculum classrooms, which excludes specialized classes such as music and art.

'That's a pretty good price'

The cost of the Promethean boards has been coming down and is expected to continue to do so in the future. In general terms, they cost in the range of $2,500 each.

At the Board of Aldermen meeting, board President John F. Anglace Jr. said the BOE’s request for a bid waiver was based on receiving a price 13% lower than it had paid the previous year.

“That’s a pretty good price,” said Anglace, questioning if using the previous bid waiver could mean the city would have to pay the same price as it did last year. “We don’t want to [do that],” he said.

Lauretti said if the previous bid waiver took place within a certain time frame, then it could be used again and the vendor can discount the price.