While the upcoming building project dominates most Monticello school board sessions these days, the March 27 session also featured its share of technology upgrades for the district.

Included was approval of new telephone and paging equipment. The $220,000 system to be provided by Heart Technologies of East Peoria will allow all district buildings to communicate with each other, something that has not been possible through the current system.

“We’ve talked about changing out the telephone system probably four times in the 12 years I’ve been here,” said school superintendent Vic Zimmerman. “(School Consultant) Buzz (Sievers) and I have met with multiple phone companies during that time, and we’ve always known that eventually we were going to do something major facility-wise, so we never pulled the trigger on changing the telephones out.”

He noted the current system is so old that technology support personnel can only get “parts off of e-Bay. So it’s obsolete right now.”

Heart Technology representative Jason Thompson said the new Mitell brand phone system will communicate with the new Valcom paging equipment to provide additional services, such as “emergency notification, which can be done from any phone in the building.”

Telephones and paging systems will be changed out in all five district buildings this summer. The bell system will be operated through the phones, and areas of new construction will include internet-based, wireless clocks. As current clocks wear out, they will be replaced with wireless ones.

A repeater will be installed to transmit the proper times to the new clocks. While more expensive than purchasing wireless clocks off the shelf, Johnson said they have found those have trouble getting access to satellites from within the brick and masonry of a school structure.

The system will also allow for district-wide pages.

Also approved was the purchase of 360 new Chromebooks for the district. Sixty of those are being purchased through Title I funds, with the remainder through the district’s lease levy.

Zimmerman said there will now be about the same number of machines as students, but said the district does not formally assign individual machines to students, who would keep them 24 hours per day.

Middle School Principal Jeanne Handley said a one-to-one option has been considered, but that many students do work on other computers once they go home.

“Chromebooks end up just being a vehicle for internet, and most of the kids have that either on their phone, or on a computer that’s better than a Chromebook,” she commented.

The four-year lease will cost $18,702 per year.

Also being purchased for the 2019-20 school year are a flat panel screen to test in a classroom, five PC laptops, five MacBooks, three MacStations and 10 iPads for a total of $24,900. Some of those are replacement machines for staff.

The board also approved a five-year agreement with Johnson, at an initial cost of $55,624 that rises to $59,038 in year five. That is lower than the expiring 10-year contract due to new equipment installed at the middle school, and Zimmerman expects it to drop more when the heating system is upgraded at the high school and Washington Elementary.

Staff moves approved

Among the staff moves approved by the board after a closed session:

Resignations: Shannon Bicknell, high school English; Tristin Duffy, middle school special education; Kevin Feeney, assistant high school varsity boys basketball coach; Luke Merry, assistant high school boys basketball coach;

Hirings: Dick Duval, part-time high school math; Richard Erickson, assistant high school golf coach; Shayla Fountain, Christina Guarnieri, kindergarten; Linda Hayes, long-term substitute for fifth grade;

First year teachers to be rehired for second year: Colene Anderson, Sydney Bertelsmann, Christyn Biswell, Alicia Burge, Brad Curry, Lauren Klein, Allison Lanphear, Alycia Moery;

Second year to be rehired for third year: Marissa Brewer, Kristen Cothern, Bridget Paradee, Nicholas Walsh, Katherine Simpson;

Second year tenure: Erin Pring;

Third year to be rehired for fourth year: Ashley Bares, Kimberly Brandenburg, Christy Crouch, Chelsea Ehrhardt, Kara Hettinger, Korryn Plotner, Allison Saldaris, Andrew Webb;

Fourth year tenure: Lindsay Coleman, Casey Crowhurst, James Elliott, Anne Celine Shiley, Bryan Hartman, Maranda Klink, Brianna LaPlant, Brittany Plunk, Micki Winskill-Henrard;

Volunteer coaches approved: Frank Scott Hoffman, Ray Wichus, volunteer high school softball coaches;

Leave of absence for 2019-20 school year: Adam Rosenbery, middle school physical education;

Retirement at the end of the 2018-19 school year: Teresa Coleman, kindergarten teacher; Colleen Hoffman, Washington Elementary head cook; and

Retirement at the end of the 2019-20 school year: Deb Rear, middle school head cook.

In other action, the board:

–Learned that Monticello Middle School has been renewed as a “School to Watch.” There are only 23 such middle schools in Illinois and 400 nationwide who received the designation; and

–approved an amended school calendar to adjust for the use of emergency days. The last day of school will now be Friday, May 31.