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School board OKs $3.7M in contracts

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Alamance-Burlington school board members voted 6-0 during a special-called meeting Monday afternoon to approve $3.7 million in new contracts for a new mobile phone application, academic software programs, and security equipment at six ABSS schools.

The largest contract, totaling more than $1.9 million, is for a software program called “Achieve 3000,” which has been in place at ABSS schools for several years and is used at all grade levels to provide targeted instruction to boost academic outcomes, based on a description by Revonda Johnson, who is the school system’s new chief academic officer and former chief secondary officer overseeing ABSS middle and high schools.

School board members voted 6-0 Monday afternoon to renew the Achieve 3000 program for an additional three-year term and to renew another academic software program, “Actively Learn,” for an additional three years at a cost of $791,855, based on figures provided by ABSS. The total costs for the two programs will be spread over three years and paid for by state funding for textbooks and digital learning materials.

School board members also voted unanimously to approve a total of $706,258 in contracts to have security cameras installed at five ABSS schools: Broadview Middle School; and Grove Park, Highland, Hillcrest, and Smith elementary schools.

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ABSS assistant superintendent Dr. Todd Thorpe reminded school board members this week that Alamance County’s commissioners had set aside money in their long-range capital funding plan to have security cameras installed in ABSS schools. Earlier this year, the commissioners also allocated $500,000 to ABSS for security cameras and electronic door access systems at several schools.

“How many schools will we still have left that need security cameras?” asked school board member Ryan Bowden, who participated in Monday’s special-called meeting by phone.

(School board members Allison Gant and Wayne Beam also joined the meeting by phone; school board vice chairman Patsy Simpson didn’t participate in person or by phone.)

“Seventeen schools, right off the top of my head,” Thorpe said, indicating that security cameras will have been installed at 19 ABSS schools once they’re installed at the five schools outlined under five separate contracts that the board approved Monday.

KNC Technologies of Winston-Salem submitted the lowest bid of $706,258.28, based on bid tabulations that Thorpe presented to the board this week. (The other two bidders were Greensboro-based Brady Services, which submitted a bid of $755,441; and Atlanta-based Net Planner Systems, which submitted a bid of $912,749.12.)

School board members also voted 6-0 Monday to award a contract for $115,852.74 to Total Communications of Asheboro to install intercom equipment at Southern High School, which is currently undergoing a $20.7 million renovation and expansion that’s scheduled to be complete at the end of this year. Thorpe said Monday that funding to replace phone-based intercom systems at Southern High School was set aside in the $150 million bond package that the county’s voters approved for ABSS in 2018.

School board members also voted 6-0 to approve a contract with Arkansas-based Apptegy to develop a mobile phone application and two-way communication system for ABSS.

The school system’s new public information officer, Les Atkins, who replaced longtime PIO Jenny Faulkner following her retirement last month, told school board members Monday afternoon that the company has developed mobile phone apps for several other North Carolina public school systems, including Roanoke Rapids Graded School District (where he and the new ABSS superintendent, Dr. Dain Butler previously worked); and the school systems in Buncombe, Harnett, and Martin counties.

Atkins said that, in the past year, ABSS “reached” more than 200,000 people, and 98 percent of those people were using a mobile device, based on statistics culled from the school system’s Facebook pages.

The Apptegy system would streamline communications into one app for students, parents, and staff, in addition to allowing two-way messaging between students, parents, and their schools through a separate feature called “Rooms,” Atkins explained during the special-called meeting. Parents will be able to download the app on a mobile device to enroll their children, look at their children’s class schedules, find upcoming events, and other information, he said. Atkins confirmed for The Alamance News Monday afternoon that users will not need an ABSS-based account to download and use the app.

Alerts would be sent simultaneously via text messages, social media, and voice calls through the app, in addition to being posted on the ABSS website, Atkins said, adding that the company estimates it can send 23,000 alerts in about three minutes.

Atkins told school board members that the Apptegy system will replace the current messaging system, Blackboard, the successor to the “ConnectEd” automated messaging system, as well as other messaging platforms.

The cost for the mobile app is $96,700 for the first year, plus $59,000 for the first year for the “Rooms” messaging system, based on the contracts that school board members approved Monday afternoon.

Voting 6-0 to approve all of the contracts presented Monday were: school board members Beam; Bowden; Gant; Rose; and Donna Westbrooks, as well as school board chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves.

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