After two hours of discussion, School Committee members voted 6-1 in favor of implementing a 1-to-1 device policy for students at the high school. Specifically, if it survives upcoming 2014-15 budget hurdles, each EGHS student will start school in September with a personal Chromebook computer tablet. Committeewoman Deidre Gifford cast the lone dissenting vote.
[The plan was always restricted to the high school. EG Patch apologizes for the mistaken inclusion in recent articles of grades 6-8 in the proposal. Officials Monday said rollout to Cole Middle School is "phase two" of the 1:1 plan.]
Debate centered on whether or not the professional development budget for the rollout, $15,000, would be sufficient. Gifford said the research she had done on 1:1 implementation pointed to inadequate professional development as a reason some 1:1 initiatives fail.
"I don't think $15,000 … really cuts the mustard," she said. She suggested starting 1:1 on a smaller scale, in one grade or one subject area first.
Parent Michael Fain, who said he worked in technology, agreed with Gifford.
"I don't understand why we don't have more of a pilot program that truly is engaging a classroom or classrooms or subject area with these actual devices. I'm not talking about iPads out there or MacBook Airs," he said, referring to the majority of computer devices now being utilized by students and teachers in EG schools. "Why this big bang? Why not take it a little slower?"
"We should go into this with our eyes open," said Gifford. "There are anecdotes on both sides. We have to go into it with a clear-eyed vision."
Teachers from the high school argued they were ready.
"Calculus hasn't changed since Newton, and it's not going to change," said Pat Dulac, chairwoman of the math department. "... What will change is the environment in the building and I think that's what we have to focus on."
"Are teachers ready to use the technology? Absolutely," said Kristin Pontarelli, who teaches Spanish at the high school. "… we all support each other. We give each other a lot of help. Yeah, we're ready."
Special education teacher Fran Healey said she and her special ed colleagues have been piloting 1:1 devices already, with carts of iPads and MacBooks in every special education classroom.
With no changes in the proposal, it was put to a vote, and six of the seven members – even Mary Ellen Winters, who said she shared Gifford's concerns – voted in favor.
After the meeting, Winters said she voted for the plan because it was for the high school students, who would need that technology when they got to college.
Approval of the 1:1 plan means Supt. Victor Mercurio will now add the proposed $725,000 cost to the 2014-15 budget now being developed. It will then be up to the Town Council to allocate a budget amount to the School Committee that will be able to cover the costs of Chromebook implementation.