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School Committee Approves Chromebooks For High School Students

The actual rollout remains contingent on the 2014-15 budget, which probably won't be approved until spring.

Discussion before the vote on 1:1 devices for EGHS students. Credit: EG Patch
Discussion before the vote on 1:1 devices for EGHS students. Credit: EG Patch

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.

EGParent January 31, 2014 at 06:40 PM
Never talk to Dr. Mercurio by yourself. He realized superintendent's responsibilities only after more than a hundred Frenchtown parents signed the letter.
Eric Carpenter January 31, 2014 at 08:04 PM
@Jerry Hoff, I'm not seeing a ton in common between Ben Franklin's writings and the sniping that goes on in the posts here. nonpc may have some great points, I wasn't saying it didn't. I just responded to its suggestion that it may run for office by saying I probably wouldn't vote for anyone that anonymously fires off a bunch of political comments on a community forum. Just a lack of credibility. I realize I'm in the minority based on the forums I read on sports and news Web sites. I just think the level of discussion on this particular forum could be raised a little higher, and real names would probably help. I also understand that's basically unenforceable. Oh well, have a good weekend!
Heather Larkin January 31, 2014 at 08:17 PM
Parent, if you're uncomfortable I'll look into it for you. Send me an e-mail so I can let you know what I find out.
EG January 31, 2014 at 08:19 PM
@Parent4, I have the same concerns. My wish list is: 1. School Committee will conduct annual survey to understand parents concerns. 2. Please broadcast School Committee meetings on a local TV channel. If this is not possible, please post video recording on School Committee website. Please take video/voice call into the school committee meetings for public comments. I (I believe many other parents) can't make it at 7:00pm. 3. School Committee organize open community forums before vote for big decisions. I realize this will never happen in this village...

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