Board goes over technology use, potential $125 million bond issuance in workshop session

The Lewisville ISD Board of Trustees met May 15. (Photo by Steve Southwell)

In preparation for their next two regular meetings, the Lewisville ISD school board met to discuss the imminent issuance of $125 million on bonds and the future of its application and Internet policy.

Though she could not participate because she had not yet been sworn in, newly elected place 2 board member Allison Lassahn was present, as was 18-year-old runner up David Hernandez.

Student technology use was the “star of the show,” in superintendent Kevin Rogers’ words, at Lewisville ISD’s Monday night work session May 7. Chief technology officer Bryon Kolbeck spoke for almost a full hour on the issue. The school board was expected at the Lewisville ISD Education Foundation awards banquet that night, giving them an ironclad departure time of 6:30 p.m., half an hour after their usual start time. They started this session at 4 p.m. to compensate, but even with that window, they had to defer board questions on technology usage, which members said were numerous, to being dealt with later online.

Before the technology discussion, the board was informed of probable action items for the May 14 and June 4 regular meetings. Expected action items next week include a $4.8 million hardware purchase that represents the first phase of the district’s device refresh and the issuance of $125 million of 2018 bonds, both of which are provided for in the 2017 bond package. District CFO Mike Ball went over three potential repayment plans for the bonds — over 15, 20 and 25 years. Details can be found in the agenda background material.

“The goal has been to issue the least amount of voter-approved bonds as possible, but not leave the district in a situation where we didn’t have the cash to pay the bills,” Ball said.

Board member Jenny Proznik said she wanted the board to have direct control over what firms the district issues the bonds through. Board member Tracy Scott Miller didn’t like the idea of a 25-year repayment plan.

“This is the first time that I’ve heard that we would even consider a recommendation around a 25-year bond,” he said. “We told our voters 20 years, and to even be ideating around 25 years seems to me to be a bit of a problem.”

The board was also informed of maximum price guarantees on several other bond projects. Contractors have presented a maximum price for a new elementary school on Mill Street at $31.5 million, which is within budget.

The board was also informed that maximum price guarantees will be established on projects to replace exterior lights, access control upgrades and storm damage repairs, but a final number has not been proposed yet. Ball said the board will be presented with final prices on these projects for the first time at the June 4 meeting.

Kolbeck discussed the future of LISD’s policies on restricting applications and Internet access with the aim of making sure school technology is used for school alone.

He discussed the LISD app store, implemented in the 2016 school year, which collects and approves apps for use on district tablets. This is currently implemented on elementary school tablets, with high school hardware having full access to the Apple app store but restrictions on specific apps. Kolbeck discussed expanding the LISD app store to grades both above and below its current range. He showed a video of high school leaders who disagreed with a move that restricted their current app access.

Kolbeck said that almost 90 percent of LISD students have smartphones, making restrictions on certain apps and Internet sites difficult.

“The idea that we’d have total restrictions is almost impossible,” he said. “If we think we’re going to block something completely on an LISD device, they’re pulling [their cell phones] out and that’s what they’re using, and they’re on another network.”

Miller highly praised Kolbeck and his team for the progress they’d made and the research they’d done on the issue, but was concerned about the student input video. He referred to a specific worry expressed in the video, that if students had to go through an approval process to download apps they wouldn’t get the software they’d need as quickly as they needed it.

“I want to make sure we resist the temptation to buy into it,” Miller said. “There’s no app that’s so urgent for a student to get a project done that they need to get approval that quickly, and there are a lot of different options to get things done. I just want to be careful to resist that temptation about taking and prioritizing creativity over protection.”

Board members said they had pages and pages of questions after Kolbeck’s presentation, and many were deferred to be answered online over the course of the week. The Lewisville Texan Journal will follow up for details on those discussions.