Bonds fund new phones, clocks, bells and intercom

School Board members on Thursday approved the use of more than $1 million in voter-approved bond money to update the district's phones, clocks, bells and intercom system.

This will give teachers and school administrators the ability to communicate with each other via phone in an emergency, said Chris York, Del Norte Unified School District's director of technology. The new system will enable Superintendent Don Olson to make announcements from his office in Crescent City heard in every single classroom and office in the district.

"Don Olson will be god-like," York said. "The district doesn't have a unified bell, clock or PA system. There's no good way for a school site to say there's an intruder and there's no way for a school site to change the bell (schedule)."

Board members unanimously approved spending about $318,000 on a new phone system and roughly $470,000 on the clocks, bells and PA systems. The School Board also approved spending nearly $258,800 on updating the switches that would support the new systems. The cost includes troubleshooting services and a warranty for the lifetime of the system, York said.

The Board's decision comes after members of the Citizens Oversight Committee, a group of community members overseeing how the bond money is spent, asked the district to finish the first round of bond-funded projects that was started in 2009, according to Olson.

Board members in October sold an additional $4.99 million in bonds for a second round of projects.

The district's current phone system was installed in 1985, York said.

He recommended installing a system that would include consoles with LCD screens and scrolling text capabilities. The wiring equipment that will accommodate the new systems was installed 18 months ago, York said.

Replacing the district's phone system will result in staff needing to purchase 379 handsets, York said. The phones cost about $200 each, he said.

Board members initially balked at the cost to install the new phones, clocks and bells, but relented after teacher Bonnie Webb argued that schools would be safer if they were installed.

Webb, a fifth-grade teacher at Pine Grove Elementary School, said her daughter was at Del Norte High School roughly four years ago when someone called in a bomb threat. She said her daughter had to evacuate to the field near Bess Maxwell Elementary School while authorities searched students' belongings for anything suspicious.

"There was no communication," Webb said, adding that the students in dance and shop in the outer wings of the school had no idea what was going on. "I get that it's $1 million. I appreciate that we're not just jumping in. But I also appreciate the safety factor."

In other matters, the Board unanimously appointed Jim Maready to the Citizens Oversight Committee. Maready is a former School Board member and had served on the Citizens Oversight Committee before.

Olson told members that at a special meeting on Monday at 3:30 p.m. they will be asked to approve using bond money to replace rusted through playground equipment at Bess Maxwell.

Approximately $50,000 in bond money has been allocated for playground equipment at Bess Maxwell, Olson said. The Board on Monday will also discuss updating playground equipment at Mary Peacock and Pine Grove schools.

The School Board is also poised to approve a new contract between the district and the Del Norte Teachers Association.

Under the tentative agreement, teachers' annual salary would increase by 2 percent. The salary increase would be retroactive to July 1, 2013.

The stipend teachers receive for their prep period would increase to $5,300. All stipends not attached to the salary schedule would also increase by 2 percent.

An agenda for the Monday meeting is available at

Reach Jessica Cejnar at