Board of Ed Buys New 3-D Printer for DMS

The Dade Board of Education as reconfigured by last year's election, from left: Trenton member Johnny Warren; N. Dade member Daniel Case; Chairperson/S. Dade/Lookout Mountain member Carolyn Bradford; Superintendent Jan Harris; Sand Mountain member Jennifer Hartline; and at-large member Gen. Bob Woods (ret.)

Dade Middle School will soon be the proud owner of a brand-new, state-of-the-art 3-D printer, suitable for the manufacture of space station parts. The good news is that the Dade Board of Education is snapping it up for a paltry $133,000. The bad news is that a $100,000 grant the system had hoped would pay the lion’s share of that hasn’t come in, so the money will have to come out of the SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) funds the school system depends on to buy everything from school buses to trumpets for the school band.

One-hundred, three hundred and thirty-three dollars is a lot of money, pointed out one board member, Gen. Bob Woods. “I’d have to think long and hard about this,” he said.

No time for that, said Superintendent Jan Harris and Operations Director James Cantrell. Dr. Harris still hopes the $100K grant will materialize—“I have a verbal commitment”—but did not think the vendor could be expected to honor the low, low price cited above for a piece of equipment that retailed at over $300,000 for much longer.

She and Dr. Cantrell explained that the new 3-D printer would allow DMS to participate in a NASA program, and that one reason the school had been offered the printer for the low, low price was that NASA was eager to work with a recently-hired DMS teacher who understood the program and how to operate the equipment. “We would be the first middle school in the nation to have a NASA program,” said Dr. Cantrell.

He said that this new 3-D printer differed from the other 3-D printers the system had bought for the schools in that they were able to produce more complicated parts. “Those printers are still usable but they won’t do this kind of work,” he said. “This 3-D printer will print something you can put in your car.”

In the end, the general was the only board member to vote against the expenditure. He advised waiting until the grant came in, but: “Later on, it won’t be $133,000,” said the newest board member, Daniel Case.

“I think it’s a bad mistake not to take this opportunity,” agreed member Johnny Warren.

And member Jennifer Hartline voted yes with the stipulation the $100K should be returned to the SPLOST pool when the grant came in.

Dade High School will also be getting a tech upgrade: The board approved putting out a request for bids to alter three classrooms, currently used for storage, to accommodate a new graphic communications lab. The new high-tech facility will cost $120,000 but is to be financed through a grant.

If it sounds as if the schools are parting with a lot of money these days--the high school unveiled its newly remodeled cafeteria only last week--the board of ed is in fact unusually flush just now, announced financial director Paula Stallings: She is amending the fiscal 2019 budget to reflect $77,000 the state had reimbursed the system for a school bus, plus an additional $108,000 she had learned the board could charge the federal school lunch program for administrative fees. Now, explained Ms. Stallings, the school will charge Uncle Sam for her own time as well as that of other employees whose efforts go into administering the federal program. "We will actually bill School Nutrition this amount,” she said.

In other business, the board paused for a plaque-and-pic opportunity with the Dade High cheerleaders, who have distinguished themselves at state-level competitions this year. “These are some of the best kids in the school,” said their principal, James Fahrney.

In her report to the board, Dr. Harris was able to boast that test results had shown that in nine categories, Dade's schools were among the top 15 in their 175-school region. "Not only have we shown improvements with academics but also with the arts and athletics," said the super.

She let Josh Ingle, principal of Davis Elementary, and Dr. Sandra Spivey, principal of DMS, provide details of the progress in their respective "state-of-the school" reports.

Ingle described progress in math and content comprehension and said the school was trying to improve test scores further through professional development, training teachers to teach kids what they needed to know to do well on the tests. “We’re going back to the basics, unpacking standards,” he said.

Dr. Spivey also touted her school's gains but said DMS still had far to go. “We’re not where we want to be and we’ll probably never be where we want to be, but we’re going in the right direction,” she said.

Enrollment at the middle school is up, she said, which is unusual with today's trends, but she had an even more unusual statistic to reveal: Almost a fourth--23 precent--of DMS's students are classified special education students. “That’s a unique challenge,” she said.

In addition to the two principals' presentations, the board heard another one on the school system's newly refurbished website and the "rebranding" of the school system. The school system had a new logo designed last year (right), but now, board members learned, each school has a similar logo of its very own. If you'd like to check out the system website--there's even an app you can download for your cellphone, board members learned

-- here's a link:

Speaking of the computer side of the system, B of E IT guy Chris Greene updated the board on the installation of a "mega-server" for the schools necessitated when one of the four smaller servers died late last year: The plan had been to replace all four with the larger unit over the Christmas break after the board had approved the $47,855 expense at its December meeting. But, said Greene, matters related to the Chinese tariff had delayed the installation and it had not been completed until the Martin Luther King Day holiday, and in the meantime another server had bitten the dust. All was well now, though, he reported, with the new mega-server smoothly operating, using only 30 percent of its capacity so there was plenty of room to grow. "We're in a good place right now," he said.

Dade County Emergency Director, and incidentally Trenton Mayor, Alex Case addressed the board on the new emergency warning alert tower to be installed at Davis School. He explained that the tower, the twin of one already installed near the Justice Building in downtown Trenton, and of another to be installed at the same time at the Four Fields on Highway 11 South, broadcasts tornado warnings when one is issued from a central weather service but can be programmed to communicate other information as well. The county needs the B of E's consent since the tower is to be placed on school property, Case further explained.

The board also accepted a bid of $2.255 from Jatt Oil for diesel fuel.

The Dade Board of Education will hold its next regular meeting on at 5 p.m. on Feb. 25 at its offices in front of the high school off Highway 136 East.

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