Hollidaysburg board approves service contracts

Student email, internet safety programs draw questions

HOLLIDAYSBURG — The Hollidaysburg Area School Board approved several contracts Wednesday for products and social services for the new school year.

Of the contracts presented to the board, the only one not unanimously approved was a contract with Gaggle.net Inc. for Gaggle safety management for Google-Student email, drive and hangouts at a cost of $12,276.

On the Gaggle contract, Lois Kaneshiki requested more information and voted against it soley because she did not have enough information about it, she said.

Technology Director Justin Arthur spoke a little about the program’s use, and the Mirror previously reported about the technology.

“It blocks inappropriate emails getting to our students. It uses an algorythm that flags certain material,” Arthur said. “The district has used Gaggle for years. Students at the junior and senior high schools produce 225,000 digital items a month, and all are scanned automatically by Gaggle. About 40,000 of those are examined at a higher level, and 515 items were brought to attention of the administration last year.”

And that number is growing, even over the summer, Arthur said.

“Last week, we were made aware of a part of a handgun purchase with a school email address and the threat of utilization of a knife last week,” he said. “It’s helped us diffuse situations.”

Melissa Mitchell asked whether the package of security software can be reduced. “Even one child is worth the money. But do the software systems overlap at all?”

Arthur said some of the programs are starting to add additional features and overlap with other brands “but our subscription is the most cost efficient,” he said.

While Gaggle is for analyzing documents, the district also purchases “GoGuardian” for a separate function, scanning web sites visited by students.

Board President Ron Sommer calculated the per-student cost of the software. It’s $7 per student for Gaggle and $16 per student total including GoGuardian.

“It seems like a good buy,” Sommer said.

Business Manager Susan Baker noted the cost difference of the software, which prevents behavioral issues including fights, versus placing a student in behavioral placement, which costs between $15,000 and $33,000 a year for one student, she said.

Kaneshiki said her main issue with the contract was that she asked in the past to get the meeting agenda earlier.

“I don’t think we get enough time to go through contracts, and I want info on surveillance stuff from soup to nuts,” she said.

All other contracts presented Wednesday were passed unanimously, 6-0. Three members were absent: Ron Yoder, Rob Vonada and Drew Swope.

Those contracts or letters of agreement for the 2019-20 school year included:

n Adelphoi Education Inc. for residential alternative education at $57.82 per day per regular education student and $140.43 per day per special education student.

n Extended Family Programs Inc. for behavioral support, counseling and education services at a cost of $83.41 per day for secondary students and $86.43 per day for elementary students.

n Extended Family Programs Inc. for behavioral intervention staff services and educational support at a cost of $15 per hour.

n The Meadows Psy­chiatric Center for educational services at a cost of $67 per day, as needed.

All of those agreements are contract renewals for services required of school districts by the government.

An agreement with EADS Architect Inc. for bid specifications and engineering for Foot of Ten Elementary School roof replacement effective July 18 through substantial completion by Aug. 30, 2020, was approved at a cost not to exceed $25,000.

There were also agreements for software including one with Microsoft /Volume Licensing for Enrollment for Education Solutions at an annual fee of $29,548.

Only one member of the public, Brandon Burns, a school board candidate, attended the meeting.

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.