The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

October 11, 2012

Sustainable technology an ECPS goal

Staff Writer

TARBORO — Technology was one of the topics of discussion at the Edgecombe County Board of Education’s Monday night meeting, as the board learned the district is applying for a Race to the Top Grant with the goal of implementing sustainable technology in the schools.

“We’re excited about this,” said ECPS Superintendent John Farrelly. “There are a lot of possibilities here.”

District technology director Ed Chase presented the plan to the board, outlining the costs of implementing the technology at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

“We do need to think about this in terms of operational cost. It will be ongoing,” said Chase, urging the board to view the technology as a “sustainable” acquisition.

One of the goals in the district’s recently developed strategic plan is “Edgecombe County Public Schools will be governed by 21st Century systems.” Chase described the basic technology needs as “the least that we can get by with in order to have our staff operate at the modality at which we have to operate in a 21st Century environment.”

The needs at the elementary level include a laptop for each teacher with a four-year lifespan, a document camera, a network laser printer, a laptop cart with a four-year lifespan for every six classrooms. The projected one-time buy cost of the equipment is $2,085,600, while the projected annualized four-year lease is $521,400. Basic technology needs at the middle and high school levels were similar.

The need for upgrading technology is pressing, since the district historically has not spent a lot of dollars in that area, Farrelly said. The technology will be used as a tool to supplement learning.

“We’re going down the road of extended school years and summer schools, so that will be an opportunity to enhance those programs,” he noted.

The district has been working on the application, which is due Oct. 30,  for about six weeks. Farrelly said the district is working with a grant writer who has had success in the past, and is up against other districts that have applied for Race to the Top funding in the past and been unsuccessful, increasing ECPS’ odds.

Technology is also the focus of one of the primary goals in the school improvement plans that principals presented at Monday’s meeting. The board approved all the school plans by a unanimous vote.

Michael Turner, principal of South Edgecombe Middle School, said he wants learning in his school to be “student-centered” and he wants technology to be a part of that.

“We want our students using the computer to maximize their learning,” said Turner. The goal in the school’s improvement plan is that student use of technology during classroom instruction will increase 50 percent by May 2013.

Ronda Sortino, principal of Pattillo Elementary School, said that while her staff is making “tremendous strides” in acquiring new technology for the building, the school’s technology is still “antiquated at best.”

Lisa Howell, principal of Coker-Wimberly Elementary School, told the board she is scheduling professional development sessions for her teachers to sharpen their skills on the use of the current technology in the school.

Sandra Joyce’s plan is for her teachers at Princeville Elementary School to use technology as an instructional tool.

“What we have we truly want to use with our students during instruction,” she said. She added that she is looking forward to the day when she will have wireless Internet access in her school.

Farrelly said his ultimate goal is to have wireless Internet access not only in the schools but also on the school buses, which will allow students to use their laptops on the way to school and create Internet “hot spots” in the county.