Westford’s schools will more than likely have to face another year of difficult decisions during this spring’s discussions on the next fiscal year’s budget, and one of those decisions was up front and center during Monday night’s School Committee meeting.
Members on the board brought three school level technology directors to testify on the possibility of reintroducing a districtwide technology coordinator, refilling a role that was vacated four years ago.
After hearing reports gathered from the trio presented by Crisafulli School technology director Andrea Gardner that members of the board believed helped crystallize the reasoning to bring back a director, a variety of other reasons were also brought forth to help support the need for filling the position ranging from saving money through better planning of services and increased direct assistance for students on technology issues.
Regarding the possible responsibilities of a new director, possibilities for helping parents understand dangers children may face was also joined by helping younger children and their parents better understand the array of technology they will use in schools.
“The turnover in technology is going faster than ever than ever in my life,” said School Committee member Arthur Benoit. “We need to have a focused attack (when it comes to technology policies) and someone at the top level of the district defining what that technology is.”
Gardner and her colleagues spoke of the need on that note for someone that could unify the “nine islands” of the school district and spread best practices effectively.
“We get very excited (about new technologies) at our own buildings, and we want to share what we find works with each other, but it’s difficult since we’re so involved with our own buildings,” said Abbot School technology director Lisa Sanderson. “We find ideas, but they come and stay with us. We might be able to get one or two teachers to use it in the classroom, but it’s hard for anything to truly catch on.”
The strongest voice of opposition came from Margaret Murray, who still supported bringing back the position, only in Fiscal Year 2015 rather than ’14, also noting that the responsibilities with the position would have to include helping further integrate technology to simplify administrative tasks as well as an overarching strategy on technology centered around a new director.
The School Committee will be on hand to testify to a joint budget hearing of the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen on Thursday evening.
CORRECTION: The decision to place a line item for the technology coordinator position was not made on Monday, but rather at the last School Committee meeting.
Other additions include...
3 Literacy Specialists at grades 3-5 to address recent MCAS deficiencies
Reading Interventionist hours at Abbot & Crisafulli to achieve equity with Day
Reading and Math Interventionist hours for grade 8 students
.4 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) Math Teacher at WA to reduce class sizes below 30 students
.4 FTE English Teacher at WA to replace Alternative Ed teacher now teaching English
Instructional Technology Specialist WA (Increase from 1.5 to 2.0 FTE)
3 Special Ed Teacher Assistants
.2 FTE Mandarin teacher for new Mandarin section
.4 FTE Math Teacher to allow Curriculum Coordinator to assume those duties full time
.4 FTE ELA Teacher to allow Curriculum Coordinator to assume those duties full time