Technology plan ideal, but Mehlville’s current hardware inadequate

COMPASS co-chair Fowler pleased with parents’ turnout at Sept. 10 session

By BURKE WASSON

Mehlville School District residents last week agreed that while the district’s current technology plan could lead to a high-performing district, today’s technology mostly is inadequate.

Three of four facets of current district technology are inadequate, according to an electronic survey of more than 150 people who attended the district’s Sept. 10 community-engagement session. At the same time, the majority of those residents surveyed believe that if the district’s technology plan for the future is implemented, all four facets will be high performing.

Participants at the Sept. 10 community-engagement session for the school district’s public-engagement program, COMPASS — Charting the Oakville-Mehlville Path to Advance Successful Schools — were asked to rank the district’s current and future status of four areas of technology — staff development, staffing, technology equipment and integration of technology into classrooms.

District officials reported that the Sept. 10 meeting was attended by 159 people, 95 of whom were school-district parents not employed by the district.

For the purposes of the survey, each table of residents was given an opportunity to respond by consensus.

When asked where they believe the district ranks in current staff development, 15 tables responded adequate, 14 responded inadequate and no tables responded high performing.

With regard to future staff development, 14 tables responded high performing, five responded inadequate and four responded adequate.

As for current staffing, 23 tables replied inadequate, three responded adequate and no tables believed current staffing is high performing.

When asked about the district’s future staffing, 21 tables responded high performing, five replied adequate and two responded inadequate.

Regarding the district’s current technology equipment, 24 tables replied inadequate, six responded adequate and no tables believed the existing equipment is high performing.

As for future equipment, 21 tables responded high performing, six replied adequate and one responded inadequate.

Asked about the district’s current curriculum integration of technology, 19 tables replied inadequate, eight responded adequate and no tables believed the current integration of technology into the district’s curriculum is high performing.

And as for the district’s future integration of technology into curriculum, 20 tables responded high performing, five replied adequate and one responded inadequate.

To highlight the state of the district’s technology and where they would like to improve its components, Director of Information Technology Systems Steven Lee and Director of Learning Resources/Instructional Technology Yvonne Morris presented their conclusions to residents at last week’s sessions.

Lee said while “our district’s current technology plan is a chart for success,” the district needs to find ways to implement that plan to become a high-performing school district in the area of technology.

The estimated cost of that 2007 technology plan is roughly $3.1 million, including $450,000 for security systems for all buildings, with annual costs of roughly $2.15 million for equipment, staff and training.

The district’s 2006 technology plan was awarded Exemplary Status by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

But to attain exemplary technology rather than an exemplary plan, Lee said the district needs to improve in certain areas to become high performing.

These areas of improvement include:

• High-quality professional development.

• Dedicated funding for technology.

• Replacement cycles for equipment and computers.

• A student-to-computer ratio of one to one.

• Multimedia presentation systems with a projector, interactive boards and audio enhancements in all classrooms.

• Classroom responders in all grade levels.

• Wireless access to resource materials.

• Video conferencing units in every school.

The district’s 2007 technology plan includes:

• Increasing computer availability to all students.

• Integration of technology at all levels.

• Staff development.

• Classroom multimedia presentation systems in every teaching space, including video and audio components.

• Establishing a funding mechanism for regular updates of all technology.

• Systems for student and building safety.

The district currently has a student-to-computer ratio of five to one, 15 percent of classrooms have multimedia presentation systems, 5 percent of classrooms have interactive SMART Boards, two sets of classroom responders districtwide, two video conference units districtwide, high-speed Internet connections to all schools, a network center supporting more than 50 servers, 5,000 networked devices across 21 buildings and communication systems in all classrooms and offices.

Oakville Senior High School juniors Kimberly Hageman and Casie Sambo, who both participated in last week’s COMPASS session, spoke in detail about areas in which the district is lacking in technology — primarily equipment and staff development.

“The equipment, let’s talk about SMART Boards,” Sambo said. “How many SMART Boards would you say?”

“One in the library,” Hageman said. “Personally, I’ve only used one, and that was in elementary school. But I’ve never seen one around my classrooms.”

“I’ve never seen a SMART Board brought into my classroom, which can also be used toward the integration of the curriculum,” Sambo said. “It’s not being integrated …

“It doesn’t matter how well the teacher planned that curriculum. You cannot allow technology that is always down. I’ve had this happen before where teachers have tried to use new technology and tried to work with it and the technology is down. So the entire class becomes trying to get it to work and to no avail.”

“You wait a whole class period trying to get technology that should be working to work,” Hageman said.

Lee also has said that many computers purchased with Proposition P funds now are outdated.

Voters in November 2000 approved Prop P, a nearly $68.4 million bond issue funded by a 49-cent tax-rate increase. However, a final budget revision approved in December 2005 raised the Prop P budget to $89,137,440 — a roughly 30.3-percent increase — more than $20.7 million over the nearly $68.4 million building-improvement program originally envisioned.

While the primary focus of Prop P was buildings, it also included roughly $7 million for new technology throughout the district, and all goals and action items from the district’s 2003 Technology Plan were either met or exceeded.

Regarding residents’ participation at last week’s COMPASS session — which saw a reported 60 percent of participants not employed by the district — COMPASS Facilitating Team co-chair Dan Fowler said he was pleased to see that presence of district parents. At the same time, he believes that if COMPASS is to be successful in its recommendations to the school board, that percentage of active district parents must continue.

“The fact that the community-engagement meeting had such a large percentage of parents there was a victory for the process,” Fowler said. “We need parent involvement to be successful at developing a comprehensive plan to the Board of Education. We also need other groups at our meetings. In particular, folks who in the past have been critics of the Mehlville School District. If they want a say, they need to show up and give us their input now instead of later.”