Technology talk set for Monday’s meeting of Lawrence school board

When it comes to buying the latest, greatest and fastest high-tech equipment, software and services, it turns out the Lawrence school district isn’t all that different from anyone else.

“It’s just like home,” said Mark Bradford, president of the Lawrence school board. “You’ll always be behind the curve, so to speak. You purchase something and then a year later, it seems like something new comes out.”

Such challenges will be running in the background Monday night as board members receive a briefing about the district’s technology assets, scheduled investments and future plans.

The report will come from Chantel Nicolay, the district’s division director for technology and library media services, during a board meeting that begins at 7 p.m. at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive. Board members also will receive a report regarding student assessment procedures.

Board members won’t be voting on any specific technology plans or considering any new contracts. Instead, they will be offered a big-picture view of current conditions and future possibilities in what has become a vast technology landscape.

While individuals might struggle when deciding whether to buy an iPhone 3 just before the iPhone 4 comes out — or instead opt to wait for an iPhone 4S or whatever else is about to displace it as the next big thing — the district continually faces larger and more complex decisions.

Whether it’s devising a reporting system for use by 900 teachers, running a phone network for 1,600 employees or buying computer tablets for use among more than 11,000 students, district leaders regularly assess current conditions and explore new opportunities.

Two months ago, for example, board members approved the purchase of 172 iPad 2s and related hardware, software and training services from Apple for $122,230. High schoolers will use the devices for media classes; juniors will use them in literature classes; and teachers will use them to gather and utilize data collected during “walk-throughs” of teacher classrooms.

That’s just one upgrade for a district that typically replaces about a quarter of its computers each year and constantly searches for new and efficient ways to conduct business, maintain infrastructure and — topping the list — teach kids.

“You always have to work towards improvement,” Bradford said.