Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Friday, March 21, 2014

3/18 School Committee Meeting: Technology

We continued our budget discussion in Tuesday’s meeting (this time in the areas of technology and curriculum), and also addressed a couple other pertinent issues. City of Melrose IT Director Jorge Pazos (who also manages the schools) spoke to technology issues within the context of the budget and IT as a whole.

·      What we need: 1.) a new elementary model (that now includes one teacher computer and 3-4 student computers but needs to be designed around student needs in classrooms for each particular year); 2.) district-wide lab computers that include 150 elem., 90 middle, 110 high (these could be Chromebooks on a cart – not nec. fixed; 3.) 300 classroom PC’s for teachers; 4.) enough available computers of the correct configuration for PARCC testing once it’s all on-line.

·      Current and future issues: 1.) we are behind in our replacement schedule (should be every six years except for CAD which is every three years); 2.) we meet PARCC specs for our current computers but we don’t meet the requirement around all students having access at test-taking time; 3.) we are an XP shop and XP is going away; 4.) elementary building inequities and how to rectify that (HM doesn’t have enough electrical outlets, some buildings have more/less printers, Roosevelt and Hoover installations couldn’t be finished last summer due to budget, etc.); 5.) IT specialists will require more and on-going training in order to stay current with changing technology and be more efficient and effective.

·      Relevant notes to above: 1.) Mr. Pazos recommends doing middle school installations this summer (300+ Dell Optiplex computers @ at the state bid price of $850/computer for the budgeted $288K); 2.) Winthrop will field-pilot PARCC within the next couple of weeks which will give us more information on how it will work and what assumptions we need to change; 3.) thought is being put into the kinds of computers that work best in different situations, i.e. fixed vs. tablets / Chromebooks cost less than PC’s but need wireless and require a $35 software mgmt. fee / iPads are $500 ea. and offer no volume discounts; 4.) a student-driven help desk would be very useful at the high school; 5.) more educational support staff (e.g. another Visual and Blended Learning Teacher) would allow expansion of those opportunities for students.

·      Supt’s Comment: Technology in schools has moved from a nice-to-have to a must-have. It is part of instructional materials and integral to teaching and learning. The costs are significant – even light bulbs for the Smart Boards are over $250 ea. – and the big-ticket items can no longer be accommodated in the operating budget.

·      Mayor Dolan's Comment: Recommends that a Capital Computer Committee be created (similar and in conjunction with Capital Plan Committee) and that we figure out how to bond every year for $250K-$300K of computers to take that expense from the schools and move it to the city side.

More on the meeting in the next post!