Jonathan Alder School District officials were pleased to report the success of its newest use of monitoring services at a meeting Monday night.
Bret Longberry, the district’s director of technology, presented to the board how a function in Gaggle, the district’s email provider that uses Google programs, works to monitor student emails and documents. He said this is a way for the school to watch over content students share with one another while using their district accounts and be a method of early response to administrators.
“This is geared to be an early response tool,” Longberry said. “What we’re trying to do is see if there’s a new way to, if they need help, get kids help as quickly as possible.”
He said the program uses “machine intelligence to categorize incidents,” such as profanity, bullying, mention of drugs and alcohol, and imminent threats, and is reviewed by a team of humans to then be brought to district staff for response.
He said the program costs the district $4.1 a year per student. According to Superintendent Gary Chapman, this will cost the district $5,953.2 a year to service its children from fifth to 12th grade.
Longberry said since this year, there have been a total of 26 warnings issued, where students used profanity, three instances of bullying or mention of drugs or alcohol and three instances of emergency, where officials are notified about potential threats.
He said through the use of this function in Gaggle, this will create better “digital citizens” by “telling kids how to use the internet correctly.” He also said this shows students the district is paying attention and looking out for students.
“The culture is being built in the entire district that there are people out there who can help you and it’s okay to ask for help,” Longberry said.
He said since the idea had been in the works since early 2017, and was scheduled to launch January, 2018, but was delayed. After the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting this year, he said this was the drive for Jonathan Alder, as well as other school districts, to start employing the use of early action response programs like Gaggle.
Board member Shannon Foust asked how flexible the word profanity filter will be. Longberry said he’ll know who repeat offenders are and see if disciplinary action needs to be taken.
Longberry also said to Foust students were not notified about this happening because he wanted to “capture as best we could what’s going on today.” He said he wants students to be talking about this program to serve as a deterrent to others.
Board member Steve Votaw asked what devices are being tracked, and Longberry said the use of the school’s internet and programs is being filtered. For now, because children are on their parents’ cell phone plans, those devices cannot be monitored.
He said if the district were to go to a one-to-one program, where students would be bringing their school devices home, this monitoring will become more difficult and expensive to track.
Also at the meeting:
-Assistant superintendent Misty Swanger said the district received its report card rating for the year and was pleased to receive an overall “B” grade. The district earned “A” ratings in gap closing and graduation rates and “B” ratings in achievement and progress. However, the district received “D” ratings in improving at-risk K-3 readers and preparation for success. The full report should be released within the next few days.
-Treasurer Aaron Johnson said the district is operating on a surplus and is “performing stronger than we had predicted.” He said at some point, the district will deficit spend, but for now, he feels good about the financial state of the district.
-The All District Safety Presentation Day will be held Nov. 6.
-The NEOLA policy review meeting will be held at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 17, and the next strategic planning committee will be held at 6:30 p.m. that day.
-The next JA community support coalition meeting will be held Oct. 24.
-Jonathan Alder School District’s school board will meet again at the central office board room of Jonathan Alder High School Oct. 8.
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