East Grand schools seek tax override to stay abreast of technology
October 20, 2009
At the start of class at East Grand Middle School, English teacher Jenny Rothbeck fires off sentences in need of corrected punctuation and grammar to a roomful of responsive sixth-graders.
But as she displays the sentences to the class, absent are the squirt bottle and the ink-covered hands that came along with transparencies.
Where a teacher of years past might have used a chalkboard, a wipe-board, then later an overhead projector with transparencies to display the sentences, Rothbeck utilizes a modern document camera.
Just as it sounds, the camera points downward onto a piece of paper – not a transparency – and projects it overhead for all students to see. As she calls on students who supply the changes needed to make the sentences correct, Rothbeck crosses out words, adds punctuation and corrects spellings on the paper.
“They like sticking their faces under there, but there are more educational uses for it,” the teacher said of her students during a document-camera demonstration to school board members in mid-September.
The uses for the machine, made by Elmo, are endless. Whole textbook pages can be displayed overhead as students follow along, Rothbeck said, or it could be used for class show-and-tell, or for displaying a particular student’s work.
More and more, teachers are finding uses for technology in classrooms, according to East Grand Technology Coordinator Kery Harrelson.
It’s this technology and the school district’s ability to supply it to every teacher and student that is at the core of a ballot question regarding East Grand Schools on Nov. 3.
The district is asking voters to continue an East Grand technology mill levy for the next three years.
Cindy Rimmer at Fraser Elementary School teaches fourth-graders reading fluency by using iPods. About 1,200 stories with varying levels can be downloaded onto one iPod, she said, replacing the old tape recorder. Students listen to the stories and follow along with a book to enrich reading comprehension and speed.
At the East Grand High School, PE and psychology teacher Maggie Keller has found a use for video Podcasts. In strength class, for example, the teacher assigns one student to lift, a person to spot, and another student to videotape the weight lifter. The video is played back for students to study correct body position. Videos are downloaded on the computer and put up on a Smart Board for classroom discussion, or are put on the teacher’s Web site for students to study at will. Or, the Podcasts could be downloaded on iPods and located at stations for students to review prior to executing exercises.
In 2006, voters passed a technology mill levy of .583 mills that provided $300,000 per year for three years, allowing the district to purchase technology software, replace its old computers and equipment, and provide Smart Boards and laptops to teachers who requested them. Now, nearly every classroom has a Smart Board, Harrelson said, and most teachers are using laptops.
If East Grand voters approve question 3B, the district plans to further its technology infrastructure and its teacher training and development so that teachers continue to apply the new hardware and software.
In the final two years of the extended mill levy, the district would be devoted to getting “a computer in every classroom for every child,” according to Superintendent Nancy Karas.
Students could take home computers and download teacher data from teacher Web sites to enhance their homework, Harrelson said. The district would implement content filters with parental controls on all student computers so that students would not be able to access off-limit sites, such as MySpace, or adult-oriented sites.
The use of laptops could help students, such as those on the ski team, stay on top of schoolwork when forced to miss school for races by acquiring instruction and assignments via teacher e-mail or Web pages, Harrelson said.
“We want to create an environment of access to technology for all of our students,” Karas said. “This is extremely important for today’s students because the working world depends on a wide array of computer uses and applications to enhance the level of work completed by employees. Computers and technology are the tools of today’s worker.”
The technology question was put back on the ballot prompted by state budget cuts.
An annually budgeted $100,000 East Grand capital reserve, devoted to technology maintenance and improvements before the last mill levy was approved, is in jeopardy due to decreased school funding projected at $400,000 to $600,000 less over the next two years, combined with a cut of $560,000 this year.
The 2006 approved technology mill levy helped to side-step cutbacks in the department, according to Harrelson.
“The failure to approve this continuation of the levy would put any technology implementation to a halt,” Karas said.
“We are not asking for any more money to be generated than we are receiving now,” she said. “But because the levy approved three years ago is sunsetting, the ballot must read that this is an increase.”
The district would impose a mil levy of .444, compared to the levy of .583 in place this year. This change reflects changes in overall valuation of property within the district. Although the ballot question mentions a not-to-exceed mill levy of .88 as required by statute, “That would not be the district levy,” according to district statements.
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.