With an eye on the future, school board invites consultants to discuss technology bond options

At the request of IUSD’s Board of Education, a pair of consultants teamed up at this week’s school board meeting to discuss options for generating new revenue for 21st century learning through a technology bond.

Adam Bauer, a principal with Fieldman Rolapp & Associates, covered the finance side Tuesday night with information on allowable expenditures, IUSD’s bonding capacity and potential tax rates. Charles Heath, a principal with TBWB Strategies, discussed timelines and strategies for moving forward.

As we learned during our December interview with Ed Tech Coordinator Kris Linville, the Irvine Unified School District has been actively exploring new technologies to make the most of classroom time and to leverage the talents of its teaching staff in alignment with the district’s focus on continuous improvement. But officials have acknowledged the challenges of adding technology to an aging infrastructure, particularly with limited state funding.

Chief Technology Officer Brianne Meyer said passage of a technology bond would allow IUSD to build a more robust and reliable infrastructure capable of accommodating media-rich content in the classroom. It would also allow the district to upgrade its data systems and refine instruction through a variety of high-tech tools, systems and strategies designed to enhance engagement and collaboration, customize learning and provide immediate assessment feedback.

Meyer told board members that the district is currently in the process of reviewing its long-term technological needs, which will drive future bond discussions. A more detailed study session will be held in May, she said.

Meanwhile, Bauer and Heath offered some preliminary information for the board to consider.

Bauer said a technology bond would require at least 55 percent of the vote, and proceeds could be used to pay for construction, rehabilitation or replacement of school facilities and equipment, as well as the acquisition or lease of property. Other school districts have floated similar measures, including the Tustin Unified School District, where 60 percent of voters approved a $135 million bond measure in November 2012.

Should the Irvine school board opt to move forward, Heath outlined a strategic approach that started with a feasibility study to gauge the public’s interest. The board would then use that information to decide whether to draft a measure and expand public outreach. The consultants’ presentation — you can access the complete version here — included hypothetical timelines leading up to elections in June 2014 and November 2014.

Board members are expected to discuss the topic again at their next meeting on March 5.