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Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

Hernando schools like Facebook page idea


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BROOKSVILLE - School goes back into session Monday, and the district's department of Technology and Information Services has several goals for the 2013-14 school year.

Among them is the development of a Facebook page for the Hernando County School system.

Melissa Harts, director of technology and information services, spoke with school board members at a workshop Tuesday regarding $362,783 in additional tech programs like Microsoft Windows 8 Pro, Microsoft Office Pro Plus 2013, and implementing wireless systems in elementary schools.

As in previous school board workshops, notably a presentation given last December about moving upward of 600 computers, the additional expenditures came under heavy questioning by some board members at the sight of the price tag.

"To be quite frank, Tallahassee can mandate all they want," school board member Dianne Bonfield said, "but the pocketbook only stretches so far, and my goodness are we stretched."

The request follows $742,894 in previous purchases, and if the requested budget is approved by the school board, will total $1,105,677 in tech upgrades, according to information provided by the district.

Among the department's goals for the upcoming year - several of which were mandated by Florida Department of Education's Race to the Top initiative - are upgrading bandwidth, partial replacement of student desktops in computer labs, replacing employee laptops and acquiring e-reader tablets for computer-based testing.

Other goals appear to align with those from School Superintendent Lori Romano's office, like improving "the timeliness, frequency, distribution and quality of" overall communication with the district, which culminated Tuesday into a discussion about the district having a Facebook page.

While met with skepticism by some board members, there was unanimous agreement about content control

Proponents of having a district Facebook page defended the proposal as a public relations tool that would allow the district to get its message across instantly to subscribers.

"Previously, we told everybody, 'Do not have a Facebook page,'" school board member Cynthia Moore said.

"Now we're saying we're going to have a Facebook page?"

Harts likened the Facebook page's applicability to Edline, which is a district system accessible through usernames and passwords already synchronized to Twitter and Facebook.

Harts also said the district intends to replicate a similar format currently used by Pasco County School District, which the district gave permission for Hernando to use.

Board chairman Matt Foreman said there are legal concerns that should be addressed as discussions progress with the idea, like Sunshine Law and content control, for example.

"I'm on board with it, but I'm terrified by it," he said.

Along the lines of overall communication, media inquiries are now being directed through communications and public relations manager Roy Gordon's office, instead of the superintendent's office.

(352) 544-5271

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