As the newly seated president of the Telluride school board, I want to thank my fellow board members for their confidence and trust in electing me and I want to provide the wider community with an update regarding some important school issues. Three areas that you may have heard about, or are concerned about, involve the allocation of 3A monies, the use of technology in our classrooms, and school safety.
The passage of 3A, the mill levy override, will bring approximately $720,000 to the school district this budget year (July 2012-June 2013). In January, the Board acted to put a majority of this unbudgeted money into our Capital Reserve Fund ($400,000). This fund is used to pay for such expenses as roof repairs (the roof over the kindergarten classrooms is being redone now), boiler replacements, and general maintenance of our facilities. In addition, the Board authorized approximately $125,000 in long-planned, and long overdue technology purchases in the schools. Thus, almost 75 percent of the monies were either put into reserves or used for capital purchases (technology equipment).
In the new fiscal year beginning this July, the District will have a budget incorporating the full $800,000 authorized by the voters. Over the coming months the schools will be developing budgets with input from teachers, staff, parents and community members through the Accountability & Budget Committees. We will continue to keep the voters apprised of the manner in which these monies are being spent.
Thanks to the passage of 3A and the dramatic increase in Internet bandwidth that has been facilitated by Ken Olson, we are able to envision a meaningful and coherent expansion of technology in our schools. District staff have been meeting among themselves and with outside advisors to craft the best policy to allow the introduction of a one-to-one, or bring your own device (BYOD) program in our schools. In this scenario, all students would have access to a computer (either school provided or their own) during the school day to further their learning.
While the planning is moving forward, it is important to recognize several key points. First, technology, by itself, will not result in higher student achievement. How we use technology will. That is why the decisions always look at how the technology will help further student learning. Second, teachers will not be replaced because each child will have access to a laptop, tablet, or netbook, nor will students spend every day in front of a computer. Teachers’ roles might change, classroom activities might change, but ultimately, it is again about using technology to further student learning. Teachers will play a most important role in that process. Finally, any new technology introductions will only succeed if teachers are provided training to help them successfully use the technology to further student learning.
In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown, districts across the country began to look at the security arrangements in their own schools. Telluride was no exception as our Superintendent met with Marshal Kolar, administrators, teachers and parents to discuss our current arrangements and to make plans to reexamine some of our existing practices. While many of the details of our emergency preparedness plans are necessarily confidential, the District is revisiting access to the facilities, lock-down procedures, and the availability and location of staff at the entrances to our schools.
It is important to note that Newtown notwithstanding, schools remain the safest place for children to spend their days. While the shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tec, and Sandy Hook are devastating to their communities and erode our sense of security and safety, they are very rare events. Nonetheless, it behooves all of us involved in education to ensure that the safety of our students remains our highest priority and that we are doing all that is reasonable and prudent to protect our students in their schools.
In a related safety issue, it is important, however, for all of us to be mindful of our actions when we travel through town in the mornings and afternoons. Many of our children walk to school and a momentary distraction while talking or texting and driving could have devastating consequences. So please be vigilant when driving around our schools.
Please continue to monitor the school website (tellurideschool.org), listen to Access on KOTO for updates from Dr. Schumacher and myself, and read this paper for further updates on these and other issues. It is an exciting time of change in education, both in Telluride and across the country, and we are committed as a District to providing important information to students, teachers, parents and other community members about the learning that is going on in the Telluride schools.