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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.

Bea Lukens January 29, 2014 at 07:19 AM
A big thank you to The school committee and the dedicated teachers who came together last night to share how their teaching could be enhanced with the access to the tools they need! Way to go EG high teachers your enthusiasm is contagious!
EG January 29, 2014 at 08:01 AM
Calculus does not change since Newton, but we are not offering the advanced Calculus courses offered in many other high schools. It is a sad day for East Greenwich education. It is clearly that the school district is only interested in "environment in the building", but not interested in offering all the kids an education program many school districts are offering.
Jeff Keithline January 29, 2014 at 10:41 AM
Does it make sense to purchase computers at all? There are leasing programs offered by most of the major manufacturers. The annual costs are a fraction of what the purchase price would be, with regular hardware and software updates so the the technology won't become obsolete. An obsolete computer will not serve it's intended purpose.
EGParent January 29, 2014 at 12:31 PM
I would challenge Mrs. Pat Dulac to offer this three hundred year old math course.
Parent January 29, 2014 at 04:42 PM
"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... " It is because you pay for it.
John January 30, 2014 at 08:07 AM
We need to send a message to the school committee this November.
nonpc January 30, 2014 at 08:39 AM
The school committee is completely off their rocker with this one. Parent you are absolutely correct and so aren't you John. And I've offered my 2 cents on this before.... show me how this investment has been done before elsewhere and show me the results they got from it compared to non-teched out classes. Even with that, it is still prudent to do a pilto program here with ONE classroom to guage it's effectiveness. And I'm not sure if most people know a couple of things here either... Didn't we just pay to have a large number of Apple laptops accessible to our high school students? And didn't the school committee each get one of those as well? Doesn't the school committee have a surplus in excess of the $725,000.00 they want from us for the chromebooks??? Why YES they do!! And by the way, I think some noise needs to be made of that... That's not their money. It's ours. That surplus should be returned back to the Town budget and done something with... like god forbid we try to lower the taxes for the residents in this town. yeah thanks for getting me fired up on this one Parent and John. and just some more FYI for all of you: out of the entire school committee, only one person has a child in the system. That needs to change.
Melissa Sommer January 30, 2014 at 10:10 AM
There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there, and I feel compelled to clear some of it up. -My husband, Jack, is on the school committee. We have three sons who all attend the EG public schools. Carolyn Mark has a son and daughter also in the system. I believe three other members have had children go through the schools, and two may not have. I, personally, think it is important to have that diversity on the committee. -The school committee did not get any kind of laptop or computer, apple or otherwise. -The plan is to leases the devices. -it is my understanding that the cost is significantly lower than what is in the article. There is nothing wrong with healthy discussion and disagreement, however it is important to keep the information factual.
EG January 30, 2014 at 11:16 AM
Melissa, I would expect Mr. Sommer asked Mrs. Dulac in Tuesday's meeting why EGHS only offers one out of the four AP Math courses(Barrington and Classical all offer AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, AP Statistics and AP Computer Programming). I would expect Mr. Sommer asked Mrs. Dulac how this investment will help Math education in EGHS.
David January 30, 2014 at 12:53 PM
non pc has a point. While it may be small eliminating $725K and possibly lowering taxes might be a first. The school dept which sucks so much of the dollars out of the budget has led not allowed the town to fix our crumbling roads and forces the government side of the equation to float bonds to address issues that affect all taxpayers. Besides parents consider that if your kids had more AP courses and pass them it could lead to early college graduation possibly saving a semester of tuition. Everyone thinks EG has the greatest education but look closely and you might be surprised. time for the citizenry to say no to the never ending spending habits of the school board. Are you listening town council members?
Parent January 30, 2014 at 12:57 PM
I have the same question as nonpc. "show me how this investment has been done before elsewhere and show me the results they got from it compared to non-teched out classes. ". I also want to add "show me the accountability.
Dad January 31, 2014 at 08:04 AM
Can independents run for School Committee in this town? It is time for a change.
nonpc January 31, 2014 at 08:49 AM
Sure but I think even more important is that a consensus needs to be made that ANY decision on how to spend the enormous budget they are given needs to be presented in a fashion that shows data on need, objective, ROI and dates be which they are achieved. Additionally I strongly believe term limits need to be enacted and that school committee members have children in the system.
Danielle Iannone Salisbury January 31, 2014 at 08:57 AM
How about a district wide designated Department Chair for Art & Music? Let's support all teachers and all disciplines.
Heather Larkin January 31, 2014 at 09:42 AM
Nonpc- did you hear any of the presentations on this subject over the last few years? Or read the document that was on the District website explaining the proposal in detail? Just curious. You should feel free to publish your name and run for School Committee...:)
EG January 31, 2014 at 12:54 PM
I wish those who read the document make their own judgement... School district claims that they will be able to offer more AP courses and university math courses by utilizing tablets. Hello, Many parents are not that stupid... Many online courses can't be run on tablets. I wish school district could answer why they could not offer these courses on laptops today first...
Parent January 31, 2014 at 01:31 PM
@Heather, As the president of PTG, can you please ask school district EG's question "I wish school district could answer why they could not offer these courses on laptops today first..."?
Parent4 January 31, 2014 at 02:41 PM
My concern is that there haven't been open community forums for discussion -School Committee meetings aren't the appropriate venue for that. Same pattern with the strategic plan: no community conversations to help set priorities and/or to collect feedback. It is fundamentally wrong for the School Committee to authorize such a significant expenditure without having a clear sense of how technology fits in to the short and long range plans for the district. This isn't a pro or against tech position, it's simply a logical one. Which has been brought up at School Committee meetings in the past -though not addressed or answered.
Parent4 January 31, 2014 at 02:42 PM
And yes - EG should have higher level math AP classes, and they shouldn't be offered online, but should be classroom based.
Heather Larkin January 31, 2014 at 02:53 PM
Parent, I could but it would probably be best for EG to ask the School Committee or Superintendent that for themselves. The School Committee meets every other Tuesday evening with an opportunity for Public comment at each meeting. All SC member's contact information is on the District website. Dr. Mercurio can be called at his office or e-mailed anytime.
nonpc January 31, 2014 at 03:04 PM
Yes Heather, I've heard the conversations on how the teachers think these are the times to embrace technology and nows the time to spend on it. My children are in the schools and I've even seen firsthand how the amount, the pretty large amount, of technology we've invested in over the past few years has been implemented and used. I kind of equate what we have versus what you are requesting to eating half a pizza and ordering another one. How about we eat the first one first and see how we feel after? You also interestingly said 'the article that WAS on the sd website..." Well it ain't there now unless it's buried in there somewhere. If it is, if you could provide a link to it that would be appreciated. Here's a few links that I'D like to provide: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-11-11/the-false-promise-of-classroom-technology http://www.edudemic.com/the-4-negative-side-effects-of-technology/ http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/technology/technology-in-schools-faces-questions-on-value.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 http://classroom.synonym.com/negative-effects-using-technology-todays-classroom-4130.html https://edutechdebate.org/ict-in-schools/there-are-no-technology-shortcuts-to-good-education/ http://nyteachers.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/technology-in-the-classroom-too-much-of-a-good-thing-by-bonnie-thone-boylan/
nonpc January 31, 2014 at 03:07 PM
And Yes, I think I will run. Being a fairly large taxpayer here and having a few kids in the system, it's probably time for me to do it. As for disclosing my name.... well I'll let you figure out who I am at the debates. :)
Eric Carpenter January 31, 2014 at 03:51 PM
I would have a VERY hard time voting for anyone who did not use their real name on a community Internet forum like this, whether I agreed with their positions or not. If you're not willing to stand up and take responsibility for the things you say in regards our community, I don't want you representing me at any level. If you're someone I actually know in 'real life', please don't take it personally, it's just the way I operate.
Gene Dumas January 31, 2014 at 04:23 PM
Eric, I agree with you. It's refreshing to be honest and open on these issues on Patch. As a side note, I'm not a big fan of "executive sessions" either...
Jerry Hoff January 31, 2014 at 05:35 PM
Man I'm late to the party again! Eric and Gene what's it really matter? An opinion is an opinion, and a valid point is a valid point no matter who, named or not, makes it. History is littered with pen names. Take Silence Dogood for example. And nonpc brings up some interesting topics regarding this. I'm not a fan of the ever increasing budget either. And a surplus?!? That money most definitely needs to be returned to the town budget. I think all of this needs to be looked into.
Parent January 31, 2014 at 05:46 PM
Heather, My children are going to HS. I share the same concern. I am not comfortable asking Supt. and SC members. Can you(our president) please ask on behalf of PTG members?
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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