MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

May 5, 2013

$47.5M bond to bring tech to MPS students

Bond will not increase taxes; voters to cast ballots May 14

Muskogee Public School officials said they want to prepare students for the 21st century in a big way with an upcoming $47.5 million bond issue.

The bond issue, in which voters cast their ballots May 14, will not raise taxes. It replaces an expiring bond, so the tax rate will remain the same, said Superintendent Mike Garde.

And because of sweeping educational changes and budget issues in the state, the bond is much needed, he said.

“This bond issue is for the students, so Muskogee can continue to provide the technology our students need to be prepared for the new global world,” Garde said.

District Chief Financial Officer John Little said he needs the bond issue to pass so he can save jobs as he prepares next year’s budget.

“First and foremost it will save some jobs, because it will allow us to keep the building fund for custodial or utilities expenses,” Little said. “Secondly, on technology, we are at the life’s end of a lot of our computers, servers and connections, and they need to be replaced.”

Garde said there’s something for every student in this bond issue, including technology, new buildings, new programs and athletic program improvements.

Technology comprises $14.8 million of the bond issue monies, or about 35 percent of the funds.

For the district, there’s projects that will save the district money and protect the environment, including converting to natural gas-fueled buses, “green” vehicles, and “green” buildings, Garde said.

Natural gas costs 90 cents a gallon, he said — offering a great deal of savings when 12 new CNG buses are purchased.

The transportation projects are in a separate $2.2 million bond the public also will vote on.

Many elementary schools will also receive much-needed repairs, he said.

Technology greatest portion of bond

Among the largest projects that will be funded by the bond is the “one-to-one” initiative.

“Every student in grades seventh through 12th will have their own laptop,” Garde said. “All the laptops will be insured and secured so they can’t be used for anything but school work, and we’ll be using the My Big Campus system for assignments.”

My Big Campus, www.mybigcampus.com, is a program that teachers, administrators and students will use to assign work, provide resources to students and track grades and assessments.

The students will take their laptops home each day and will be able to do their homework assignments without an Internet connection, Garde said.

When the students get back on campus, their computers automatically connect to the server, and some assignments get graded, Garde said. Some assignments, such as multimedia projects or writing assignments will continue to be graded by teachers.

“It gives the students immediate feedback and lets them see exactly where they are, so they are in control of their work and their grades,” Garde said. “And that will inspire them to be better.”

The system is similar to those area colleges use, such as Moodle at Bacone College or Blackboard at Northeastern State University.

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