Triad board gets overview of latest technology for new high school

Originally published in Section B of the HighlandNews Leader •• Thursday, October 22, 1998

By Margie Bugger

For the News Leader

Wireless keyboards, video enhancement, e-mail, Internet services and voice networking were a few of the capabilities presented to the Triad District School Board Monday night by Sonacom Inc.

Michael McNeil, vice president of the company and a registered communications distribution designer, gave the members an overview of what they could expect by way of technology in the new high school. Aware of the ever changing world of techno advancement, McNeil and education specialist Sean Lorenz discussed various plans with the board for upgrading systems in the future.

The company offers a one-year warranty on all systems they install, as well as workmanship guarantees, and warranty extension programs. “If we install it, we show you how to use it, and we’re there in case anything goes wrong. That’s our value to the district, and that’s our responsibility,” McNeil stated.

The voice network alone will house 92 stations with digital handsets for each teacher, a “homework hotline” for public access and voice mail. E-mail and Internet services will have a full ATM backbone to avoid spotty service and provide speedier access capabilities. Using fiber optics, there will be no speed limitations on the computers.

The video capabilities exceed 50 hours of memory, used to store info then backup on a videotape, cable TV access in each classroom and live hookup for announcements. The video technology also allows classrooms to access different aspects of the same program at different time periods.

Wireless keyboards control the main “TV,” a new 29” computer screen with better picture quality than televisions the same size, as well as the main teacher’s computer. This allows teachers to travel around the classroom for better hands-on presentations.

Administrative security measures will be built into all computers, with only specific personnel allowed access to administrative files and only access to certain computers. While no computer is guaranteed fail-safe, this procedure has worked well in several different school systems, according to McNeil.

A guarantee against obsolescence was offered as part of the package. Full value is refunded within three months if the system doesn’t provide what the district needs, then a depreciation scaled down from there. McNeil hastened to point out that there had never been a problem with anything the company had set up.

The computer-to-student ratio with this plan is one computer for every 4.35 students, half the average national ratio. Training for this technology will be provided by the company. A specialist will sit with several representatives of the district schools to develop customized curriculum options, train teachers and help with room-to-room access. Eventually, the technology developed at the high school will be available to all schools in the district as funds are allocated in the future.

Although the overall estimate of the technology plan uses the services of Sonacom, exclusively, the company has an open-book policy and will procure bids on any project if the district wishes to “shop around.”
The issue of the grades of cable used to set up the infrastructure was questioned, but McNeil assured everyone that it was state-of-the-art and would last several years.

The question of just what the company’s services should be called was raised by a member of the public who gave his name only as Fontana. “Are they designers, leasers, consultants, what?”
“They (Sonacom) went through a process of selection, the same as our architects and contractors did. They had to meet critetia,” Dane Tippett stated.
President Byron Heape refused to answer the question. “We’ve gone through all appropriate channels and now we’re ready for a vote on the proposal. Discussion is closed.”

The motion was set for the proposal of Sonacom to provide the listed services set down at the presentation for a cost of $755,000. The motion was approved

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