Committee hears technology report

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Almost two years ago, the County commission's education committee recommended a special expenditure of $1.2 million on bringing technology in the schools up to 21st century standards. At that time, the proposal was to spend about $445,000 on 281 laptop computers for teachers and 280 desktop computers for students. The balance was to be distributed as follows: $170,500 for flat panel display screens, $154,000 for projectors, $120,000 for infrastructure such as servers, $22,200 for cables and surge protectors, and $75,000 for computer lab tables. Technology director Suzanne Ingram told the commissioners that installation could be completed "by July."

Last week the education committee heard a presentation from Ingram about how the special spending on technology was going

Ingram reported that the education technology funds "have been expended for the most part. All equipment has been purchased and installed." She and three assistants are finishing up the wiring in the schools, and in a phone interview Friday, Ingram anticipated being finished by the end of February, if not sooner. The four-person team has pulled over 30 miles of cabling, and more than doubled the number of Internet access points in the district. There are access points in each classroom for video streaming and wireless access points throughout the administrative offices and media centers.

Network access from all the schools is now by fiber optic cable, and the egress point (where all lines come into the district and go out into the schools) has more than trebled in size.

The County's schools are now a Wide Area Network (WAN) fed by fiber, which allows the technology department to deliver integrated software programs, such as A+, to every single classroom in the district. This is significant because A+ offers content in all grades from kindergarten through 12th, so all students can use it for intervention in high-need areas. It can be used for credit recovery for secondary students, and new credit for students who need it.

Almost two hundred teachers have been trained in the use of A+, and a trainer visits each teacher using A+ once a month to give assistance.

"The funds provided by the commission and the upgrading of the network and equipment opened doors for the district when applying for grants," wrote Ingram. As already reported in the Tribune, the school system has been awarded a Rural Utilities Service grant to place distance learning equipment in all the schools that do not already have it (the high schools got distance learning labs this year thanks to a Perkins IV grant). This is a huge advantage for a small district like Marshall County, greatly increasing educational opportunities for all students.

Larry McKnight is chairman of the education committee. He was joined by members Jimmy Stitt and Don Ledford, as well as County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett, interim schools director Roy Dukes, budget director Janet Wiles, and new school board member Harvey Jones Jr.