Technology mill levy to appear on November ballot for East Grand School District voters | SkyHiNews.com

Technology mill levy to appear on November ballot for East Grand School District voters

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado

In the age of Smartphones, iPods and laptops – Wiki, Twitter, podcasts, Facebook and a Web-universe – schools are faced with preparing students for a technology focused future.

On Tuesday, East Grand School District board members agreed to ask taxpayers to continue the district’s technology mill levy, a $300,000 per-year property-tax collection due to expire in 2009.

The way today’s children learn is different from the linear chalkboard memorization and reciting of years past.

Now, information is available through a myriad of sources beyond the textbook, the shelved Encyclopedia, even the teacher.

For good or for bad, information is everywhere.

“All the information is out there. The kids don’t need the teacher to regurgitate information at them. They know they can go get it,” said East Grand Technology Coordinator Kery Harrelson in a presentation to the school board.

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Teachers are being encouraged to reinvent outdated teaching methods. The 21st Century student needs innovation skills, creativity and collaboration, media and technology and problem solving, according to information produced by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development and the National Center on Education and the Economy.

Both centers agree careers requiring complex communication and expert thinking are on the rise, while fields that require “routine manual or routine cognitive skills” are on the decline.

In 2006, East Grand County voters approved a technology mill levy that allowed the district to supply teachers laptops, create infrastructure in schools for wireless coverage and upgrade computer systems, purchase hardware, software, smartboards and cameras.

Perhaps the next step, administrative officials are pondering, is to supply each high school student with a laptop as the district retools its learning environment.

“The major structure changes we made was kind of getting ready for this,” Harrelson said, “all the wireless in all the buildings, the laptops, phones, iPods. We’re at that point.”

“But is the district, really?” asked East Grand Board President Tom Sifers.

Technology offers little benefit if there lacks support and guidance on how to use it.

But teachers, even those who resisted, are using laptops and smartboards at East Grand, and general use of computer labs has increased heavily, Harrelson said. “I think the teachers are ready to take the next step. They’re more competent than they ever have been.”

“I think we have to propose a significant investment in staff development to teach (faculty) how to teach a class in which students have laptops,” said Superintendent Nancy Karas. “Are we ready today? No. But we’re a lot closer than what we were.”

Exact detail on how a continued mill would be applied remains in the works, but Karas suggested offering teacher training by Apple education experts during the first year prior to incorporating student laptops in classrooms, if the mill were approved.

This year, the technology mill is set at .453, meaning people currently pay an annual tax of $4.64 per $100,000 of residential property. Commercial property owners pay $16.90 per $100,000 of commercial property.

The district intends to ask for .444 mills, meaning $3.53 per $100,000 of residential value, or $12.88 per $100,000 of commercial. That amount would supply $300,000 annually to district technology endeavors for the next three years, for a total of $900,000.

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.

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