Superintendent Zetty details $990K tech wish list for Gateway
By Kyle Lawson
Published: Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
If Superintendent Nina Zetty has her way, Gateway students won't have to wait several minutes for old laptops to boot up in class.
In the preliminary $68.7 million 2013-14 budget, Zetty is asking the school board approve spending $900,000 to update technology and teaching methods throughout the district.
In addition to new laptops, an iPad tablet and an Apple TV would be installed in every kindergarten through fourth-grade classroom, as well as all Gateway Middle School classrooms, Zetty said.
The equipment is less expensive and more mobile than the interactive whiteboards obtained through state funding about five years ago that now are scattered throughout the district.
All of the whiteboards will be moved to Moss Side Middle School and the high school.
“That's one part of a three-part initiative to dramatically alter the technology or the technological capacity of our district,” school board President Steve O'Donnell said at an April 2 budget meeting.
School director Dan Nowak said that while he heard about a new vision for the district, he was unsure of exactly what the plan entailed and if it involved replacing desktop computers.
“Paint a picture, because I'm not seeing it,” Nowak said.
“We're not buying desktops. It's laptops in some cases and in most cases, iPads,” Zetty said. “The picture is, preparing our students to be functional in the 21st century.”
The internet, if used wisely, has minimized the importance of students memorizing facts, Zetty said.
“Curriculum will no longer be about memorizing facts,” she said.
“It's about problem solving; it's about collaborative learning. So the technology is a piece of a larger vision of 21st-century teaching and learning.”
O'Donnell said based on his experience, the three-year plan is unprecedented at Gateway.
“This is the first time that we will develop a technology plan that will be integrated into the curriculum,” O'Donnell said.
“It's a major, major commitment on the part of the board and district tax dollars to improving the quality of education in the technology arena.”
When district officials spoke with nearly 1,000 stakeholders — including teachers, parents and staff — in recent months about questions or concerns they might have about the district, outdated technology was “the single most significant issue raised,” O'Donnell said.
A member of the audience at the April 2 budget meeting — which drew a crowd of teachers and residents — asked if district officials plan to hire an additional technology specialist to help the current technology director respond to malfunctions.
Zetty said that according to the technology director at Gateway, new equipment would reduce the number of malfunctions.
“So you think about not having to repair and respond to — especially at the high school — the 7-year-old laptops that I'm being told take 10 to 15 minutes to boot up every time a student goes in to the classroom,” Zetty said.
Another audience member inquired about the cost of training staff on the new technology.
“There may be some areas that we'll have to bring (a specialist) in,” Zetty said. “We do have money for professional development.”
But as requested by some teachers, most training likely would come from other Gateway teachers who are knowledgeable about the software, Zetty said.
Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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