Grants will help fund virtual centerTwo grants have been accepted and approved to help fund a virtual center for 10 participating schools in the southwestern region of the state.
By: Stefanie Briggs, The Dickinson Press
DICKINSON - Two grants have been accepted and approved to help fund a virtual center for 10 participating schools in the southwestern region of the state.
The center is to virtually link classes among public schools in Dickinson, Beach, Hettinger, Richardton, Taylor, South Heart, Hebron, Glen Ullin, Killdeer, Belfield and New England.
The schools’ application to establish the new Roughrider Area Career and Technology Center was approved by the State Board for Career and Technical Education (CTE) during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
Another application was approved Wednesday of this week for a videoconference support grant from the North Dakota Educational Technology Council. The grant was awarded for video support in the amount of $46,875.
The center is to be a virtual delivery system which includes the traditional interactive television setting, video conferencing and an asynchronous system offering new learning opportunities to students.
Dickinson schools are to partner with Dickinson State University to implement the new asynchronous system. The center is to be primarily used by students in grades 10-12, with opportunities to reach into middle school or junior high grade levels.
The classes offered through the system involve many areas including agriculture, business, accounting, marketing, Web design, health careers and computer hardware and industry technology.
There are several requirements regarding how the virtual center is to be done and what the next steps require of the school districts involved.
One requirement by the CTE board states a school must be a Roughrider Education Service Program member and a K-12 facility. The RESP board is comprised of a school board member from each school district involved.
Schools also part of the RESP which opted out of the virtual center venture include public schools in Scranton, Halliday, Mott, Regent, Bowman and Billings County.
Another prior requirement during the application process was for the school groups applying to conduct a needs assessment. The assessment was done by the Stark Development Corporation, which surveyed students and businesses on regional needs and demands of the region in a technology driven world.
“Now the next step is for the 10 school boards to formerly pass a resolution to be part of the center,” said Dickinson Superintendent Dr. Paul Stremick. “In addition, they will also have to sign an agreement to be part of the center.”
Another requirement by the CTE board is to give public notice for at least 14 days prior to meeting on the resolution approval, he added.
The next Dickinson School Board meeting is Monday, Feb. 11, so between now and then there is not enough time to give sufficient notice. Stremick said the approvals by districts won’t be completed until closer to March than in February.
“Then the schools will have to formerly appoint someone to the Roughrider Area Career and Technology Center governing board,” Stremick said. “That board will have to meet and one of their first decisions will have to be to hire a director for the virtual center. Next they will want to see about instructors to teach the classes, and I know that we will need to hire at least one new teacher for the health career courses.”
The governing board will approve all expenditures going toward the center, he added.
The members on the governing board consist of a school board member from each of the 10 regional schools. At the last Dickinson School Board meeting there was brief discussion of which board member could be on the center’s governing board, with Dickinson’s Leslie Ross expressing interest.
The governing board is to meet once a month, similar to school board meetings, and create its own policies to meet guidelines given to it by the state CTE department.
“A cool thing about this is since it’s a virtual center, the board may choose to have their meetings over the (virtual) system,” Stremick said. “Why make someone drive in from Beach or wherever when they can meet (virtually).”
If students can learn over the virtual delivery system, they should be able to have meetings over it, he added.
The first board meeting is to be conducted by state CTE board Chairman Darrel Remington, who also is the Belfield Public School superintendent.
“The ITV labs would get installed during this summer and must be in place for the fall of 2008,” Stremick said. “Then a lot of that is turned over to the director to make sure we have a schedule. I’m assuming administrators will work on some of that in the mean time, depending on when the director will start.”
At this time, there is no one in charge of the virtual center system and no one in mind to be director, he added.
“It’s open to people who meet the state CTE board requirements,” Stremick said. “I know for sure they have to have a career and technology teaching certificate, which makes sense. It’s no different than when you hire a high school principal who needs a high school teaching background.”
Although Stremick volunteered to assist in the procuring of grant funding and helping make the center a reality, he is not qualified to be the director.
There are plenty of challenges ahead in getting the virtual center set up in all 10 schools and ready for the 2008-2009 school year.
“One challenge will be developing the schedule for 10 different schools with their individual needs,” Stremick said. “It will be nearly impossible to meet each school’s needs and there will be a lot of compromises.”
Any time you start with new technology there’s also challenges, he added.
“The ITV lab is only one piece of this and the asynchronous system we will share with DSU is another big part of this,” Stremick said. “We will use their expertise, but that shouldn’t be a problem. I view DSU as a leader in distance education and they will be able to provide a lot of guidance.”
Another challenge is preparing all instructors to teach over the system, he added.
“We’ll have to have professional development once those people have been identified,” Stremick said. “Basically, it runs like a school district, so the director is like a superintendent. The administrators aren’t involved to a great deal.”
Yet with this it brings together many school districts with no one district as the leader.
“I’m assuming there will be other schools using this more than Dickinson public because if you look at the list of courses, other than a couple, we already offer them,” Stremick said. “I see our biggest area as health careers and offering things like Accounting III and IV, because in the past we had students interested in those courses, but not enough to have a section for it. This is just perfect for that.”
There were five school groups in the western part of the state that applied for the approximately two grants given. The others that received funding for their own career and technical education programs included the Bottineau-Rugby area and the Bismarck area.
School districts in the Minot and Williston areas applied, but did not receive grant funding.
How it started
The RESP and the 10 schools hired grant writer Bernie Burley to write the state CTE grant application. Stremick helped in the grant process done in late fall of 2007.
Stremick knew Burley from his time as superintendent in Grafton, where there is a virtual center. Stremick was glad to use his background in helping the RESP schools achieve this goal.
“We want to put in an ITV lab in the schools that need one as part of this CTE grant and use our matching funds for those labs, which I requested through the other grant also approved,” Stremick said. “Now the labs that will be installed will truly be free, because the CTE grant covers 75 percent of the costs or up to $25,000, and the other grant covers 25 percent or up to $25,000. You put those together and you have a free lab for up to $25,000.”
It saves every school district $6,250 and all funds through the grants are done by reimbursement, he added.
The entire venture is made possible after state Senate Bill 2200 offered the grant in its package for additional K-12 education funding this summer. The legislation reformed the state education funding formula, adding more than $90 million in an effort to achieve greater equity in education funding.
“There was part of the package to have (about) two career and technology centers in the western part of the state,” Stremick said in a previous Press article. “I believe the focus for the centers to be ‘virtual’ ones comes from demographics. The distance between schools here versus out east is quite different. It’s not feasible to have students traveling between schools here for classes.”