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Discussion by the Ladue School Board Certainly Stirred Up Various Views

The Ladue School Board expressed mixed views about the 21st Century Learning Initiative.

No doubt, this was the hot topic of the week. More than 40 comments have come in on two articles, and a number of readers are voting in the local poll dealing with this hot-button issue. The clamor, pretty much is over who is going to pay for these laptop computers. Obviously, tax weary residents are tired of shelling out dollars and think the burden should shift to the parents of students. Check out these recent articles.

The Ladue School Board met this week with the majority of the meeting time devoted to the 21st Century Learning Initiative, which has been discussed at length beginning in May, 2011.

Rob Highfill, who serves as Ladue School District's Director of Information Technology Services proposed that the school district provide each student at Ladue High School a laptop computer to better integrate technology into student education. Other devices were considered throughout the process, however, Macbook Air laptops are the hardware of choice at this time.

Highfill stated that the proposed one-to-one technology initiative will make technology available to every student, which will provide the same opportunity and access to technology to all students. Because the school-issued laptop computers will go home with every student every night, students will have access to technology without current limitations and time constraints.

To help illustrate Highfill’s beliefs on the need for the one-to-one initiative, Adam Stirrat presented his views as the gatekeeper of school technology, Shruti Upadhyay, Ladue High School English Teacher presented her experiences from a teacher’s standpoint and Mark Shevitz presented his thoughts from a parental viewpoint.

Stirrat stated that during the 2011-2012 school year, state assessments which measure student proficiency were given in an online format only. Because of the number of students verses the number of computers available, the computer lab was shut down and reserved for testing for nearly four weeks. During that time, students were not able to gain access to technology for classroom work, research and projects and teachers were limited in the way they were able to integrate technology into their lesson plans.

“Teachers come to me with really amazing ideas and I have to turn them away because of limited equipment,” said Stirrat.

Upadhyay presented a student-produced biographical poem which the student was asked to integrate words and technology using visuals and sound. The final project, a video, was used to illustrate how more access to technology can offer students more learning opportunities. Another project incorporated a non-fiction book, sound, video and You Tube. This project attempted to teach the students about the world in which they live and to break down stereotypes while understanding the importance of words.

“The students had to start and finish on the same computer. This was not a project the students could do at home. There were eight classes on the same computers in the lab. There were setbacks with the limited technology and other students using the computers in the school computer lab,” said Upadhyay. Her enthusiasm about the use of technology and how it enhanced her ability to teach her students was evident.

Shevitz, owner of SJI, Inc., added about Ladue High School students, “These kids need to know how to use technology, because they will need to know how to use it professionally. We have interns that have to know how to use computers and technology or we don’t bring them on board. It is the world in which we live.” Shevitz owns a marketing company.

Although there were no hard figures presented, after balancing cost verses savings, Highfill suggested the cost of the initial hardware is about $250,000. Additional costs will be incurred for necessary staff training and for repair to the hardware that is inevitable. A proposed insurance fee paid for by parents could offset the cost of repairs.

Highfill said the best opportunity to implement the technology plan is in the 2016-2017 school year. It is possible for it to happen sooner with additional costs involved in breaking current computer leases. If the district waits until 2016-17 the current computer equipment leases will be up at that time. In the interim, current equipment will not be upgraded to help offset the cost of purchasing the laptops.

The board expressed mixed views about the 21st Century Technology Initiative. None were completely against it. And after much discussion, the consensus was that more information was needed to make an educated decision.

Some board members voiced concern for community reactions to spending funds on computers for every student in light of the recent tax levy passing and the budget cuts deemed necessary at that time.

Highfill stated that, “the plan for the one-to-one initiative was already in place before the tax levy was presented and passed. The committee does not plan to use Prop 1 funds (for the purchase of the laptop computers.)

Some Board members suggested that using funds in the budget to help offset the cost may inadvertently come from Prop 1 funds.

Other business discussed was the preliminary budget for 2012-2013 school year, early separation incentive recommendations, the high school focus group report and policy changes.

Rhonda Weiche June 14, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Jill, I am sure that the school would not turn down the offer for parents to fund this initiative.
John Galt June 14, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Subsidizing is wrong and immoral in any form.
Jill Moore June 14, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Rhonda, I hope you are right! Having parents fund this is the only responsible thing to do. I will gladly foot the entire cost of laptops/software/maintenance for my 3 kids when they get to the HS. Right now I'm just hoping we can save our tax dollars to work on the basics...like returning class sizes to preferred levels. Most parents in the district can afford a laptop but NONE of us can buy our kids a better teacher/studen ratio. That is the district's responsibility and they should not nickle and dime the budget away on other initiatives until they get the basics covered and covered to Ladue's standards.
flyoverland June 14, 2012 at 07:39 PM
We used to call that World Geography class. I think "global awareness" is a weak excuse for this program.
Bill Burmeister June 16, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Do parents of Ladue HS support mandatory use of laptops by every student for class teaching? My vote is yes what is yours? Ok then, the best way to have up to date technology is through a two year lease program and mass leasing gets a lower equipment price. So now how is the program funded? This is what needs options presented because we all want the best education possible for our children. Lets get the cost facts then ask for ideas on funding as it may be a 50/50 effort if technology needs to be standardized and updated every two years to be current. What is the cost for such a much needed laptop technology education program?
Jill Moore June 16, 2012 at 02:57 PM
DL I could not agree with you more. I believe the district is GROSSLY underestimating the true cost of this initiative. I have 3 kids, all of whom we plan to send all the way through Ladue schools. My opinion is that it is so morally and fundamentally WRONG for me or any other Ladue district parent to put our hands out and ask the taxpayers to fund laptops. We have enough discretionary spending money in our households. If supporters of this initiative want this then they need to go out and WORK to raise the fund privately. None of this 50/50 nonsense.....100% parent funded or we don't do it is my opinion
flyoverland June 16, 2012 at 03:07 PM
You should run for School Board.
Jill Moore June 16, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Flyoverland, that is sweet of you to say. I think being on the school board is a tough job and I'm not sure I would be willing to take that on while my kids are still so young. Also I highly doubt I would be electable as I've ruffled plenty of feathers within the Ladue Mommy set.
flyoverland June 16, 2012 at 03:54 PM
The four year cost was about $1600. Just checked. While Apple computers are far superior, using them always increases the cost of software. For example, you need to still buy the Microsoft Office program for each one if you want to use Excel and Word. Apples own product, Pages, while superior, isn't widely used and if you are sharing documents with the rest of the world, you need Word. The cost for the student version is $89 per copy. I'm sure you can get a bulk price. Then, there is the cost of buying the textbooks. What the school should do is prepare a spread sheet of the total costs of the equipment and software, then back out the savings of buying e-Textbooks versus print versions and add in the additional cost of staffing (you will need to add people to keep the computers and the network running) and the cost of the network and archive programs that will be required to run the computer. This isn't just giving kids computers. At most schools using this system, when a kid signs on to the internet, even at home, the computer signs on to the school's archive, so programs can be retrieved and work saved. This is not a simple give everyone a computer deal. There are many costs. Then see the true cost and require parents to cover the net. Obviously, you have issues, like what if my kid is a junior and he won't be there for four years, etc. As I've said, if a parent can't afford all or part of the cost, arrangements should be made.
CreveCoeurDad June 16, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Wow! Try getting out of your bubble and go north of Ladue Rd. in your Lexus SUV if you dare. Head to the "hood" north of Olive, around Hilltop or Indian Meadows or Beau Jardin. Or head over to the Frontenac trailer park. Parents there do not "have enough discretionary spending money in (their) households". They are doing everything they can to afford a property in the district, when they could afford a nicer place St. Charles, but they want the education instead. Not everyone lives in a $1 million house in this district, some are downright lower middle class. Quite frankly, if they can pull this off for $250K, that's great. Better spending on that than another administrator. And do you really think the administation is so stupid as to not know how much it is really going to cost? All the numbers are out there, why don't you get your brilliant CFO husband to point out all the flaws in their thinking. Otherwise, don't make such slanderous accusations. As for the comparison to Burroughs, it's not valid. They have a very different student population. And their test scores are a result of who they are, not the way they teach them. Burroughs can control more of its variables than Ladue can - so they can use teaching methods that work for a narrower set of students. Burroughs does a lot of things right, but one size does not fit all.
CreveCoeurDad June 16, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Ummm, you are by definition "the Ladue Mommy set". The people you are offending are those who actually work hard for a living to send their kids to Ladue schools. Not to mention those who care about the entire district and not just one grade in one school.
Jill Moore June 16, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Creve coer dad. You have the wrong impression about me on so many levels. I have said if concerned parents want to go out and work to fundraise to cover these costs with private donations then it would be great to provide this technology to all students. I have never and would never refer to specific areas of the district as "the hood" the way you have. I also am not hiding behind a screen name as you are. I do not think the administration is stupid but I absolutely believe they do not yet know the true costs of this initiative. You speak of people on a fixed and tight budget so surely you are aware that MANY of the taxpayers are on limited and fixed incomes and neither you nor I should be asking the taxpayers to buy our kids each their own computer. This is a great opportunity for parents to help our kids and our district.
flyoverland June 16, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Sir, you are absolutely wrong. It is not part of the tuition. It is broken out and paid separately each year. Repeat. The cost of a computer at MICDS is a separate charge paid by parents each year.
flyoverland June 16, 2012 at 09:13 PM
The laptop issue was mentioned in the last election...by the Vote No committee. The school board failed to bring it up knowing the response.
flyoverland June 16, 2012 at 09:15 PM
I know about 20 people who will be happy to support you if you want to run. It is time for the parents to take back the board from the teachers. Five of the seven are now either current or former teachers. You would be a great start.
D L Sprich June 16, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Read your "Terms and Conditions of Enrollment" where is clearly states that, "Seventh through twelfth grade tuition includes the use of a school-issued tablet laptop as well as the program and maintenance fees associated with the laptop program." It was separate in the beginning.
RouteSwitch June 17, 2012 at 05:07 AM
As an information technology professional for a large St Louis based company; IMHO, this is not a good technical recommendation. Current industry trends are to cloud based virtual desktop environments. They eliminate large expensive hardware and software deployments and would meet or exceed a great deal of the requirements for learning. Another advantage is a smaller software license footprint. Each laptop with software would cost north of $2000, so we could buy 125 laptops, NIC support and maintenance. It doesn't stand up to even a cursory fiscal analysis. The school board has this one right. Technology is great, this is just the wrong technology.
Bill Burmeister June 17, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Working together right? By 50/50 I was not implying district or the tax payers need to pay for laptops!!!!! It is a program both parents and the school district need to support so all students have equal technology. If district works through a parents as teachers panel leasing is a option through grants, business support, donations, private fund raising and yes parents participate in the lease program at a equal rate signing and paying for the reduced rate lease. It could be set up even as a lease to purchase for those who elect that option for handing down. But as technology advances every two or so years lease should start over with up to date equipment funded the same way. All students need equal technology so parents just buying without a program of 50/50 coordination or one that is not built on the district's diversity policy would not be fare to teachers.
Jill Moore June 17, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Sorry for my misunderstanding Bill. I completely agree this tech initiative should happen and that it must be equally available to all students. My point has always been that I do not believe the district/taxpayers should foot ANY of the bill. I believe grants, donations, etc are the way this should be done.
Jill Moore June 17, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Creve Coeur dad. I have thought long and hard about you personally attackIng me rather than engaging in a mature debate of the issue at hand. Frankly it really pisses me off. Looking up the value of my home and my husband's job title and using that limited information to judge me is discriminatory, wrong and frankly, extremely creepy. Let me educate you since you're curious. My parents were high school sweethearts from small town Iowa. They worked their way through college and made every opportunity for themselves. They raised me with those small town values. My father in law was a truck driver. My husband began working as a janitor at age 14. My husband paid his own way through college, worked his tail off and is today a very bright and successful CFO. I drive a minivan, not a luxury SUV. My family works just as hard as your family and we will not apologize for having what we have. I believe very strongly that each child deserves opportunity. I have said I believe funding this tech initiative for ALL the kids through private donations given willingly is a great idea. Forcing taxpayers to fund this is, in my opinion, wrong. YOU are the one here judging people based on income, not I. You need to rethink your bitterness and discriminatory attitude and I think you need to quit hiding behind your screen name if you are going to attack people on a personal level. That is shameful.
CreveCoeurDad June 17, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Wah, wah, wah! I didn't look anything up on you, you spread it all over the place. And for someone who claims to have formerly worked in public relations, you certainly know how to make people mad at you - on this site, LPIE, at school, in the administration, and on the school board. Yet you seem to revel in it, and blame everyone else for having a "problem". I've got news for you, it's you, not them. No, you shouldn't have to apologize for what you've got, but I don't care about your background either. It doesn't make you any more noble than if you had inherited the money. However, you are pretty single-minded on reducing class sizes in kindergarten/1st grade at the expense of everything else. The only things you've ever come out in support of are things that benefit your kids - you've opposed practically everything else. The tech initiative is a HS level program, but you're opposed to spending district money on it - as usual, just like clockwork. Quite frankly, for all your passion, you're terribly ineffective because everyone has tuned you out. A "mature debate" with you is impossible because it seems you're in love with the sound of your own voice, you always know best. Of course you're entitled to your opinion; it's just that you have the annoying habit of constantly reminding us of what it is – small elementary class sizes. A little compromise and patience would go a long way to achieving what you, and the rest of us want. If that's a personal attack, so be it.
Jill Moore June 17, 2012 at 09:36 PM
I own my opinions and I don't hide behind a screen name. What's your name? Or do you prefer to attack via anonymity? Think what you will of me. I'm not trying to win a popularity contest. I'm advocating for my kids. Every parent should advocate for their children.
James Baer (Editor) June 17, 2012 at 11:25 PM
All these fake names are Jack Klobnak, former owner of LaserVision Centers in St. Louis.
flyoverland June 18, 2012 at 12:19 AM
You know exactly who I am on here. You will be hearing from my attorney in the morning.
James Baer (Editor) June 18, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Patch has learned that Jack Klobnak is not Creve Coeur Dad. I issue the sincerest apology for getting that wrong. I agree that Klobnak is Flyoverland, and we will just leave it there.
CreveCoeurDad June 18, 2012 at 02:02 AM
Politics is a game of coalitions. I have yet to hear you advocate for spending district money on anything other than reduced elementary school class sizes. When you only advocate for your kids, your kids lose. The district is comprised of more than just elementary schools and unless you build a wider coalition, you will always lose. It's one thing to advocate for your kids, it's quite something else to advocate just for them and against everyone else's. I’d love to see your opinion on this in 10 years, when your kids are no longer in elementary school.
Jill Moore June 18, 2012 at 06:15 PM
O.k. CC Dad. Last time I respond because I won't continue to defend myself personally, I want to stick to the issues. First of all....I have mainly been advocating for smaller class sizes in the elementary schools. That is true. There are mountains of studies backing me up on the value of smaller elementary school class sizes. Elementary is the very FOUNDATION of all of our children's educations. If we screw it up at that level, it doesn't matter what we offer later, the kids will never catch up. Our district has 1,765 elementary students. That is 40% of the district. I am not just advocating for MY child. Am I outspoken, yes. Can I be annoying, hell yes. Are there people who don't like me, absolutely. Good thing I'm not running for Homecoming Queen. I'm advocating for the kids. In the last few months I have met with several leaders in the district, board members, administrators. I have had conversations with teachers in the district. I have started working with LEF. I have given them several new fundraising ideas, at least one of which I understand they have started working on already. I am an active volunteer at Reed, LECC and have just begun volunteering with LEF. One thing I am NOT is ineffective. I have said I will personally donate to any fundraising efforts in support of the tech program. I support our district and, yes, I am outspoken. I will not stop. I am affecting change. Naysay all you want. Winning you over is not part of my goal.
CreveCoeurDad June 18, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Although I can understand the emotional appeal of your argument, the fact is, a lot of your facts just don't hold up to serious analysis. I can speak both from personal experience and as someone who's done some investigation of what works in education. And, I'll start off by saying that I do support smaller class sizes at all levels for various reasons at some point, but it's not my highest priority. The simple fact is, reducing elementary classes down to 18 will achieve very little. Our current crop of high school students went through elementary school with often up to 28 kids in a classroom, and they're doing just fine. Asian classrooms, of which we're all enamored with now, often have up to 40 students per classroom and they appear to kick our butt. (I have my doubts.) Smaller classroom sizes are usually pushed by teacher's unions who want more members and easier work loads for their members. There's little evidence they achieve anything. http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2010-08-26-classsize26_ST_N.htm And that study was conducted out of Columbia Teachers College, a place I rarely find anything to agree with. The bottom line is, despite the neuroses of us parents, our kids are going to turn out just fine. They all have an upper limit that no teacher or method or program is going to get past. All we can do is screw our kids up. Smaller class size - not harmful, but not much bang for the buck.
CreveCoeurDad June 18, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Ahhh, cloud computing, the diskless workstation, circa 1988, of the 21st Century. Bad idea then, bad idea now. But it's a great idea for taking a single hardware or network failure and bringing down thousands of users. Not to mention, anyone who has ever tried to use Citrix on an overloaded network knows what a wonderful idea it is to run apps across a network. Same rules apply now as in 1988 - hardware and software are cheap, people are expensive. And an entire company/school sitting around while IT fixes the cloud, that's REALLY expensive.
Bill Burmeister June 19, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Think about how you are making these comments did you use a Laptop, did you use a desktop, did you use a smart phone or other type of device? Laptop or Dual Core Technology smart phone for me. Technology is always changing, just think about what it was like five years ago; much less 10 or 15 years ago. So students have much more change in education due to technology than we as parents ever experienced. I am proud of the Ladue School District for even evaluating such a forward thinking technology program. It shows that my kids have been provided a top rated education in what is recognized as a "leading edge" teaching environment nationally. Just check it out on the internet about what educators and rating sources say regarding the Ladue School District nationally.

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