Mar 052014

By Tammy Gray
A money-saving plan to combine the duties of the Joseph City Unified School District superintendent and the junior/senior high school principal appears to be working well.
Superintendent Bryan Fields, who is also serving as principal of the junior/senior high school, explained that the arrangement was put in place to see whether it was viable.
“We’ve been able to make it work so far,” he said.
He explained that the reason it is working is due to strong support from staff members, both at the district office and at the school. The business manager has taken on some duties formerly assigned to the superintendent, and a part-time assistant principal at the school handles most student disciplinary matters.
When the board made the decision to try to combine the roles, it was on a trial basis. Fields noted that he is not sure whether it will become permanent, or how long the arrangement will continue. He noted, however, that it is saving the school district money, which was part of the reasoning behind the move.
“We decided to try it and see how it works. It is budget-driven,” Fields remarked.
Regardless of whether he continues to serve in both roles, Fields is moving forward with plans to upgrade technology, reduce energy costs and improve security at Joseph City schools.
By the end of 2014, the district hopes to have an open wireless network that students, teachers and staff members can access for assignments and research. He noted that plans are in the works to allow students to use personal devices under limited circumstances, but the district is also hoping to eventually obtain tablets for students to use.
According to Fields, there are a number of digital applications that would assist students, such as specialized apps for automotive and math classes.
“By next year, we hope to buy some tablets for teachers and students on a limited basis,” he said.
In the long term, the district is looking toward electronic textbooks that would be downloaded on to tablets. Fields explained that once the district has enough tablets, using electronic textbooks would provide significant cost savings.
Fields is also working on a plan to install solar panels to reduce the district’s utility bills. He noted that the panels would generate enough electricity to reduce the school’s electricity use by about 60 percent, based on the two highest electric meters.
“The savings on utilities could be hundreds of thousands over the next 20 years,” he said.
If approved by the school board, the panels would likely be obtained through a lease-purchase program in which the district would own the panels in about 15 years. Fields hopes to have the panels in place by summer.
In addition to solar panels, district officials hope to replace outdated lighting and air handler control systems to improve energy efficiency. According to Fields, a preliminary audit of potential energy savings has been completed and the district is awaiting the results. He hopes to receive board approval to move forward with a comprehensive audit and replacement of the old systems.
Security is also a priority for Fields, who explained that the district has already added cameras to certain buildings, as well as fencing around the grade school cafeteria. He is also working on improving emergency procedures for lockdowns and evacuations. The district is already implementing standard response protocols that are used by schools around the nation for emergency situations.
“This is something that is relatively new to our district,” he noted.