Turlock School District Discusses Technology Updates for Classrooms

On Tuesday, October 16th, the Turlock Unified School District (TUSD) Board of Trustees discussed the proposed 21st Century Classroom Technology Plan, as presented by Supervisor of Technology and Data Systems Judi Green, in efforts to move forward to a more well-equipped classroom setting for students within the District.

While the Board of Trustees was not required to take any action on the item at Tuesday’s meeting, it is expected that the proposed plan will be brought back to the Board of Trustees, as an action item, in the month of November.

“If we’re getting kids ready for the future, we’re going to need the technology,” stated Linda Murphy-Lopes, Principal at Julien Elementary School.

The District Technology Committee’s 21st Century Classroom Technology Plan includes recommendations to upgrade network infrastructure to support 10GB to the desktop and to provide a district-wide wireless network, install Interactive Whiteboards in each core classroom, install Document Cameras in each classroom, make staggered purchases of desktops or laptops for teachers and upgrade computers in all computer labs to meet the requirements of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, watch trends for student devices and set aside funds to make such purchases, provide ongoing professional development for teachers, and provide “instructional technology” support staff to the entire district.

Over the years, various schools within the District, such as Julien Elementary and Brown Elementary, have set aside some of their own funds to make such technological improvements within their own sites. Within the past 5 years, $3.8 million has been spent for school site technology updates within the District, from which 69% was paid from restricted site categorical funds, 20% from unrestricted site funds (General education or Medi-Cal Administrative Activities, MAA, funds), and 11% from building project/furniture and equipment funds. The majority of these funds, if not spent for technology, could also be spent in other areas to support student achievement.

Since some schools within the District have already sought out some of these technological advancements within their classrooms, such as the interactive whiteboards, it was inevitable that the question of equitable distribution would come about while discussing the implementation of the proposed plan.

Jeff Persons, the Principal at Brown Elementary School, who already have some Interactive Whiteboards installed within classrooms, addressed this issue to the Board of Trustees.

“We’re all part of the Turlock Unified School District, and the kids are all our own,” stated Persons. “I am passionate about this plan, and ultimately the funding is for all of Turlock’s kids, not just Brown students.” Persons also stated that he would be willing at Brown Elementary to let other schools within the District who did not have these advancements in place yet to use the funding first, to ensure that each school had the same core of resources/technology, before using the funding for upgrades to Brown’s current technology, such as the Interactive Whiteboards, that they already have in place.

Board of Trustees Member Frank Lima stated that the District would look for the most equitable solution to address such issues.

While there is not one primary source of funding for the technology plan, TUSD Assistant Superintendent Lori Decker reported to the Board of Trustees that there are approximately 20 different funding sources that the District would pull from to support the plan.

Components of the 21st Century Classroom, as part of the technology plan, include digital projectors, student response systems that allow instant assessment feedback to teachers, interactive whiteboards, teacher laptops, and an audio/visual system. This equipment for the “ideal classroom” was the result of a survey that the District conducted in January of 2012, in which approximately 436 of the 750 teachers within the District responded as essential equipment for the future.

The plan, however, is highly dependent on the passing of Proposition 30, the governor’s tax-initiative that would save Turlock Unified School District from extensive mid-year trigger budget cuts. The plan will come back to the Board of Trustees sometime in November as an action item for the Board to vote on, after the November 6th election.

“Every classroom in our district should have this,” stated Persons. “And this is the plan that we want to go for.”

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