Broadband Committee

Halifax, Vermont

June 8, 2011 Minutes

The Halifax Broadband Committee was called to order at 6:30 pm Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at the Halifax Town Office. Present were committee members Edee Edwards, Earl Holtz, Gretchen Becker, and Jessica Bruno. Committee member Curtis Carroll was absent. Members of the public present were Stephanie Aldrich, Margo Avakian, and Linda Lyon.

Becker moved and Bruno seconded that the minutes of the May 11, 2011 meeting be approved as written, and the motion passed, 4-0-0.

Edwards moved and Becker seconded that the minutes of the May 17, 2011 meeting be approved as amended, and the motion passed, 4-0-0.

Edwards moved and Becker seconded that the minutes of the May 18, 2011 meeting be approved as amended, and the motion passed, 4-0-0.

New Business:

Discussion with Stephanie Aldrich regarding how the school uses or would like to use the internet:

Stephanie Aldrich was asked by members of the committee to advise how the children in the school use the Internet, as well as to give her opinion on what are some things that teachers and staff would like to do in the future.

Aldrich reported that currently research is the primary tool. Starting in 3rd grade and increasing in each grade thereafter, the students use the internet to gather information on science, social studies and literature topics via articles, graphics and videos.

The teachers also use the Internet as a teaching tool. Examples of their resources are collections of educational videos and sound clips that they present to students, as well as interactive sites. The school recently got a SmartBoard and are exploring ways to use it with interactive sites. Teachers also can obtain lessons online and customize them to make them their own, as well as download lesson plans and worksheets. Aldrich reported that they had previously dabbled in online coursework, but they did not do it this year. Aldrich sited the lack of a personal relationship with a teacher may be a negative of online coursework. Teachers also use the Internet for online progress monitoring and use it as a data system to evaluate student achievement scores. Administrative tasks are also performed such as surveys and communications. She mentioned that they would love to have audio book sharing so that students could download books onto their iPods. Many children have their own iPods. Aldrich mentioned that broadband access would help the school and in turn help the community. When people survey communities with children, they are more likely to move there if the community has broadband access.

Many questions for Stephanie Aldrich arose including:

Does the school have enough bandwidth? Aldrich reported that they currently have enough to make it work and in her experience videos don’t tend to stop mid-stream.

Do parents go online and communicate with teachers? Aldrich replied that they are trying to make the school website more user-friendly. Most parents don’t have high speed, so they are trying to make the site friendly for dial-up users (which means eliminating videos etc).

Does the school use the Internet to post grades? Aldrich reported that they do not do that at this time.

Are the students taught how to evaluate the data they get from Internet sources, and are sites filtered? Aldrich reported that yes, they work on that and talk to the students a lot about it and how to distinguish reputable sources. Teachers also filter websites for the kids. They use online portals and bookmark sites for the kids to use.

Does the school use bookless texts? Aldrich reported that some texts they use come on CD, some come on CD for SmartBoard, and they use some resources directly from the Internet.

Would iPads surpass the need for computers? Aldrich reported that it is hard for many students to type on iPads and noticed that a lot of people use separate keyboards for them. Though there are a lot of apps and educational apps to interact with, the students use computers the same way adults use computers, but don’t necessarily use an iPad for the same purposes. She also noted that there are few students with their own personal iPads.

What would the school want if money were no object?

Aldrich replied that they would like hardware. A 1:1 student to computer ratio would be ideal. They would also like a balanced repertoire of technology devices such as digital cameras, smart-pads, iPads, flip video devices etc. They would like to try them and pilot them to find ways they can use them in the classroom. They would also like more training for staff and students. They would like to spend time with people who use these devices and use them well. The school would also like support with Internet safety training.

Right to Know (Open Meeting Law and Public Records):

Edwards gave a summary of the open meeting law requirements. There is a $500 fine for violation.

It was reported that any time three or more members of the Broadband Committee get together to discuss broadband in Halifax, it would have to be warned. This goes for discussion on the Halifax website as well.

You can use the Internet for distribution, but not for discussion.

Any e-mail messages that pertain to town business are public record.

Draft minutes should be available for review 5 days after the meeting. They should be put in the binder in the common room of the town office.

There was discussion regarding the “official” versus the “unofficial” town of Halifax websites. Committee members agreed that they would like to see the Broadband Committee Meeting Minutes on the “official” town of Halifax websitewww.halifaxvermont.com.

Windham Regional Commission Meeting:

Holtz reported that he and Carroll attended the Windham Regional Commission meeting. The primary goal/statewide plan is adoption not access. The regional commission is setting up another meeting tentatively for June 30, 2011.

Broadband in the News:

Various articles regarding broadband in the news were discussed involving V-Tel, Sovernet, and Fairpoint.

Next Steps:

Ideas were discussed for next steps the Broadband Committee may wish to pursue including:

    • The committee will try to get a strong measure of public support and will further discuss the best ways to accomplish this (possibilities include survey, canvassing the neighborhood, petition etc).
    • The committee will look into possible adoption programs in order to educate the public in very specific ways on how the Internet can benefit them personally. Possible programs include how to find health information, building a website, blogging etc.
    • The committee discussed looking into using the town multi-purpose room with a donated computer as an access point for people who do not have Internet access at home. Collaboration with the Whitingham Public Library was also discussed.
    • The committee will look into new technology such as devices that use cellular networks to access the Internet.
    • Edwards reported that author Michael Grabell is writing a book with subject matter of whether the stimulus money is money well spent, and he will be in town Friday and Saturday (June 10 & 11, 2011).
    • The committee agreed to divide our vendor base and continue to contact them regarding potential service in Halifax. The vendor relations will be handled as follows:

-Carroll: V-Tel

-Holtz: Great Auk

-Becker: FairPoint

-Edwards: Sovernet

-Bruno: Verizon Aircard

The committee discussed taking a stand at the upcoming special town meeting to ask the town to support Internet connectivity via a non-binding resolution. Old Business:

The VT FiberConnect grant avenue may not necessarily be closed despite that the Halifax School Board declined to participate. The committee will keep looking into this.

Carroll will provide input on Becker’s draft Internet survey. Becker asked the committee to re-think what we want to accomplish with the survey, and what benefit it will provide. The committee will continue to make modifications to the draft at this point.

Hearing of Visitors:

Linda Lyon stated that although she has Internet access, she appreciates what the committee is trying to do for the community.

Other Business:

Anyone with agenda items may post them to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/halifaxvt/ and Holtz will compile them and set the agenda a few days before the next meeting.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:23 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Jessica Bruno