Salem-Liberty gets Web upgrade

BEVERLY – Salem-Liberty Elementary School is getting a long-awaited Internet upgrade.

At Thursday’s Fort Frye Local Board of Education meeting, Jimmy Battrell, CEO of the Southeastern Ohio Voluntary Education Cooperative, which handles the district’s Internet service among other things, told board members an agreement had been reached with Frontier Communications to run fiberoptic lines to the school, increasing its bandwidth from 1.5 megabytes to 100.

“Honestly, Salem will have the best (service) in the district,” Superintendent Stephanie Starcher said.

Unlike the other three schools in the district, Salem-Liberty does not have enough bandwidth to allow for wireless Internet and that low bandwidth makes other online usage difficult. The school is wired for higher speed, but the rural portion of Washington County where the school is located lacks the utility infrastructure to make it available, said Ryan Henry, Fort Frye’s technology coordinator.

“The bandwidth connection we’ve got out there is so slow,” he said. “They’re increasing the bandwidth about 100 percent.”

In 2011, SEOVEC signed a contract with Horizon Communications to connect the most rural schools it serves, including Salem-Liberty, to higher-speed, fiberoptic Internet service. However, Battrell said the company canceled the contract for Salem-Liberty and at least one other school when it did not have enough funding to complete the work.

Time-Warner quoted SEOVEC a price of more than $260,000 to link with the school, which Battrell noted was too expensive for the district and SEOVEC. Frontier initially offered service for $44,000 up front and $1,800 a month for five years, but later revised that to $10,000 up front and $885 a month.

“We’re going to front that ($10,000) because it was supposed to have been covered anyway,” Battrell said.

Battrell said he is hopeful SEOVEC can use state funding to cover that expense. And thanks to the federal E-Rate program, Fort Frye will be reimbursed 70 percent of its costs, including on the monthly rate.

In other business Thursday, the board thanked outgoing Treasurer Melcie Wells for her service. For nearly two years, Wells worked as treasurer for both Fort Frye and the Warren Local school district in a cost-saving arrangement, but stepped down from Fort Frye this month, citing personal reasons.

“I appreciate you guys putting the faith in me,” Wells told the board. “I’m sad about leaving, but it is the best thing for me and my family at this point. … It was a challenge, but I loved it.”

Board President Johnna Zalmanek thanked Wells for her “outstanding service,” as well as her family for “sharing” her with the district.

The board discussed whether they should still do an evaluation for Wells since she was leaving, something they haven’t always done in the past. Board member Kevin Worthington said he’s done many evaluations on the board and in his career and would like to do one more for Wells.

“I’ve never been able to give a perfect evaluation, and I think this would be my opportunity,” he said.

The board agreed to postpone Starcher’s evaluation until the spring, since she joined the district in August.

“I feel like you’re still just getting your feet wet,” Zalmanek said.

New Treasurer Stacy Bolden, who has been on the job three days, will receive her evaluation in the spring as well. She also received a vote of confidence at Thursday’s meeting from Wells.

At the start of the meeting, Paul Mock, with the Ohio School Boards Association’s Southeast Region, presented a plaque honoring board member David White for 25 years of service on the regional executive committee. Mock noted White has served as regional president twice and also been active with the organization on the state level, including being named to the All-Ohio School Board in 1995.

White, who has served on the Fort Frye board for 37 years, was defeated in his bid for re-election this year.