CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Cleveland City Schools will boost the presence of electronic media in its classrooms and at its sporting events in the coming school year.
The city school board recently voted 6-1 to accept a donation from businessman Allan Jones to buy a 13-foot, remote-controlled helium blimp equipped with a camera and wireless transmitter for live streaming of athletic events. The blue Cleveland Raiders blimp will feature the logo of Buy Here Pay Here USA, a car dealership owned by Jones that offers in-house financing and uses a blimp as a landmark.
"It's going to open a gate," said board member Steve Morgan, who cast the opposing vote and cited concerns regarding "donations with strings attached" and potential liability issues.
The board funds coach salaries but school athletic programs pay their own way through ticket sales, advertising signage and donations, board member Richard Shaw said.
"We're going to have find other sources of revenue -- honest sources of revenue," said Shaw. "This seems to me to be an honest source."
The blimp is covered by the school system's liability, said Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of Cleveland City Schools.
Jon Souder, a media instructor at Cleveland High School, said operations training is provided as part of the blimp purchase and that a crashing blimp descends slowly.
Jones' donation will cover the estimated $10,000 price tag for the blimp. The school system will buy consumables such as battery packs and helium tanks, Souder said.
The apparatus mimics similar devices employed at college and professional football games, but on a smaller scale, Souder said. It provides "real world training" for students to operate the blimp and the remote camera system.
Cleveland schools are pushing hard to put more technology in the classroom, education officials said.
One step has been introducing electronic textbooks through Big Universe Learning, said Jeff Elliot, instruction supervisor for city schools.
The system also will buy 30 laptops to augment 30 iPads purchased through a pilot program last year, said Andrew Phillips, technology supervisor for the schools.
As the system moves toward a sustainable electronic environment, plans are to encourage students to bring their own mobile devices as a way to "bridge the gap" for what the schools may lack.
"I would venture that in four to five years, there will be no more textbooks," said Ringstaff. "It will be strictly tablet-based and software-based."
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com.