Government Schools

Conference, Travel Details Questioned by School Board Members

Est. Read Time: 3 mins

A discussion about a planned two-day trip to research the Saucon Valley School District’s Apple iPad “1-to-1” initiative and how it interfaces with Pennsylvania’s new core standards prompted a variety of questions from school board members Tuesday.

The board voted to approve the trip–which will be undertaken by 12 staff members–but individual board members questioned everything from its timing to the focus on Apple products over Microsoft.

Superintendent Monica McHale-Small said the trip will be paid for by Apple.

She noted–in response to a question from board member Susan Baxter–that it might be cumbersome to make the switch from Apple to PC products now.

Changing the district’s devices from Apple to PC would require additional professional development, for example.

Board member Bryan Eichfeld added that Microsoft tablets such as the Surface Pro aren’t much cheaper than iPads anymore, although that was not the case several years ago when the initiative began.

In response to a question from school board member Charles Bartolet about the rationale for the upcoming trip, McHale-Small said it will be useful from a knowledge-base perspective because the people who began the technology initiative–including former superintendent Sandra Fellin and former assistant superintendent Carl Atkinson–are no longer employed at the district.

Another major change involves “a whole new set of curricular standards that we need to be dealing with” as a result of the new PA standards, she said.

“We’re hoping to move to where we can actually use the iPad as a tool to build curriculum, and build content,” she said, and in conjunction with that goal the district plans to roll out the student-issued iPads at the high school next year.

The goal of the 1-to-1 initiative is to eventually put an iPad in the hands of each Saucon Valley middle and high school student.

“In order to move that plan forward we need to refocus our goals,” McHale-Small said.

Trip attendees will visit two schools–one in Ridley School District and the String Theory Charter School–that are so-called “high-implementers” of iPads in the classroom.

The trip will be followed up with what McHale-Smalled called “a very extensive presentation” to the board in March about the plan to roll-out the iPads at the high school.

Eichfeld said he knows he’s “tilting at windmills,” but he would prefer to see conferences scheduled during the summer months “so schools don’t have to be paying for substitutes and disrupting the classroom.”

He conceded that the Apple-paid trip could not realistically be scheduled over the summer, since it involves classroom visits.

District business manager David Bonenberger also pointed out that scheduling conferences over the summer wouldn’t necessarily save districts money, because teachers would still need to be paid for their time.

During the discussion about the conference and travel in general, Eichfeld questioned another trip by a staff member that the board needed to approve.

“I’m really torn on bringing this up because in the grand scheme of things it’s not huge dollars, but I just noticed that (band director) Herb Payung (is) staying three nights at this PMEA (conference),” he said. “$194 a night in Hershey? That’s a lot of money a night in Hershey.”

“I know that the conference is being held at the Hershey Lodge and that’s probably their rate for the conference…but I would really appreciate it if the administration would take a look at some of these things,” he added. “Maybe he doesn’t have to stay…in the lodge.”

Eichfeld said there are other cheaper and “really nice” accommodations in the area.

“We can look into that,” McHale-Small said.

She noted that in addition to being the state-level music educators’ conference, the conference in Hershey will involve state-level competitions attended by students Payung will be chaperoning.

“The idea is that all the students and all the music teachers are in one place, so they’re all looking out after one another,” McHale-Small said.

Bartolet asked what the annual conference budget for the district’s educators is, and Bonenberger said he believed it’s about $3,000 “per building.”

Bonenberger said he would “run a report” about the budget for conferences and distribute it to board members for their review.


Subscribe to receive our newsletter in your inbox every Monday, Wednesday & Friday.

Please wait...

Thank you for subscribing!

About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at

Leave a Comment