2010-02-11 / News

Technology still a focus for budget-conscious schools

By Eileen M. Daly

Times are tough, but technology remains a high priority in Jamestown schools.

During last Thursday’s meeting, the School Committee heard the results of a technology audit completed by technology consultant Clint Kennedy, chief technology officer for Branford Public Schools in Connecticut, who presented his recommendations for phase two, the “visionary” phase of Jamestown’s technology audit.

Kennedy presented a detailed and thorough presentation of available options, from an expansive – and expensive – major renovation plan down to a more affordable, gradual improvement plan. The presentation included the areas of hardware/peripherals, infrastructure/network, professional development, software/ services, staffing and curriculum.

As part of any improvement plan, Kennedy emphasized the need for a thorough disaster recovery plan that would allow for rapid recovery of information during an emergency.

He recommended that data be stored off-site, as school buildings could become inaccessible during an emergency. Although he praised the fact that Jamestown’s two school buildings allow for some protection of information, Kennedy recommended storing information outside of both buildings – preferably off island or even out of state – as a method of increasing the likelihood that information will be recoverable.

Professional development is another area that Kennedy emphasized as part of any technology improvement plan. Ensuring that skilled users are available for instruction and troubleshooting is a central component for successful implementation, he said.

To that end, Kennedy recommended employing a full-time director of technology and a full-time technology facilitator, as well as ensuring that summer help is available.

“Technology improvements need to be supported with staff,” he said.

Kennedy also spoke to the use of Smartboard technology in the classroom, which he described as continuing the “teacher as preacher” model.

He said he was “not against Smartboards,” but emphasized that he would rather see more student-centered technology used. He also decried the lack of portability of Smartboards in relation to other possible tools.

Superintendent Marcia Lukon said that the FY 2011 budget contains provisions for a gradual improvement plan to update technology in Jamestown’s schools. In line with Kennedy’s recommendations, Lukon is asking to increase the position of technology director to include a full-time and part-time position during the school year and a parttime position during the summer months.

In other business:

• Finance Director Jane Littlefi eld responded to committee questions about the usage and cost of substitutes, and the technology director and assistant salaries. She also reported on ongoing conversations with RIDE about the statewide transportation system, which, though meant to save money, has ended up costing Jamestown more than the previous system.

• Special Education Director Gwenn Spence responded to committee members’ questions regarding tutoring and Medicaid reimbursements.

• Superintendent Lukon explained why the proposed budget does not address the strategic plan goal of offering world language instruction at the elementary level. According to Lukon, should Rhode Island be awarded Race to the Top funds, area superintendents will submit a competitive innovation grant application for RIT funding to hire a Chinese/Mandarin language teacher and establish a distance learning center at the Southern Rhode Island Collaborative. Distance language instruction would be available to participating districts, with language teacher inschool visits as contracted by the districts, Lukon said.

• The committee approved the JESPA contract by unanimous vote. Last fall, the committee outlined language changes agreed to in negotiation; the current vote was taken to approve a version of the contract with additional editorial changes.

The next budget workshop of the Jamestown School Committee will be held tonight, Thursday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. in the Lawn Avenue School library.

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