The Tamaqua Area School District is looking to move faster along the Information Superhighway.

Business Manager Connie Ligenza told the district's finance committee Tuesday night that Tamaqua Area has renegotiated an addendum to its contract with PenTeleData Limited Partnership for Internet services.

The district currently is in the third year of a five-year contract with the Internet provider which expires in June, 2012. Ligenza said the district's monthly fee is $4,350, but it receives 56 percent of that in reimbursement through the federal E-Rate discount program.

The problem is, the district's computer usage now needs greater bandwidth and faster transport speed.

"Over the first two years of the contract, we've brought on more web-based applications, and our Internet is being swelled," explained Ligenza. "We went back to PenTeleData and asked them for more bandwidth and speed."

The addendum to the contract results in an increase of $894 per month to the district, before the E-Rate discount is applied. Ligenza noted the district is in the process of applying to the E-Rate program for the 2010-11 school year.

"If we are overloaded with usage district wide, could we take one part of the district on another service, or would we violate our contract?" asked School Board President Larry A. Wittig.

Ligenza said the current contract has limits concerning bandwidth, and the district would be liable to pay for any overages.

"We need to increase our bandwidth and speed. If we burst over the threshold, we would be charged," related Ligenza, who said it was less expensive for the district to renegotiate with PenTeleData.

The finance committee approved the contract addendum, which will be on the agenda when the board meets on Tuesday for its regular monthly meeting.

In other business, the committee authorized Ligenza to purchase upgrades to the high school's fire alarm system.

The district is looking to purchase the upgrades from Simplex Grinnell for the amount of $33,000, with the purchase funded from a subsidy received through the Pennsylvania Pact Grant.

Budget control

Ligenza told the board the district has collected almost $9.4 million in tax revenue through December of the current school year, which is on track with what it collected at the same time for the previous 2008-09 fiscal year.

District revenue for 2009-10 is running at $16,732,828, or about 65.8 percent collected for its current budget, as opposed to $16,789,179 for this time last year, which was at 67 percent of its budget.

Expenses are running close to the same as well, at $11,886,642 to date as opposed to $11,251,185 for the previous year, which is at 54 percent of its budget compared to 56 percent for last year.

Ligenza also mentioned the district is still looking to finance its 2001 and 2003 bond issues, but current interest rates are not at levels to bring the returns the board is seeking.

"We were looking for a threshold of $100,000, and interest rates are hovering around what would be a $50,000 return," she remarked.

The district has made arrangements so it can move forward if rates are favorable. "When we are ready to proceed, we can get ready very quickly to do it," she said.

Policy revisions

Superintendent Carol Makuta told the board's education committee that the district is continuing to revise a number of its policies to bring them up to date with language recommended by the Pa. School Board Association (PSBA).

One policy, regarding membership, was rewritten to remove a code of ethics, which has its own specific policy.

The district's graduation policy is being amended to include recognition of military veterans of World War II and the Korean War.

A policy for professional employees is being changed to exclude the Loyalty Oath, which is no longer legal according to PSBA, noted Makuta.

The district is also updating a policy regarding public attendance at school events to include the prohibition of smoking and usage of controlled substances on school grounds. The amendment would include the elimination of a separate polict regarding tobacco use, which would now be included in the other policy, explained Makuta.

The policy revisions will be reviewed and considered for the board's monthly meeting.

The education committee also approved a request by Makuta for the district's staff to use the swimming pool for an evening free of charge, as a district-wide bonding event, subject to having lifeguards on hand and following pool regulations.

Prior to the meetings, Makuta gave each board member a certificate of appreciation from PSBA in honor of School Board Appreciation Month. The board's photo has been posted on the district website, along with years of service for each member.