Neary Pilot hinges on community feedback, especially 4th graders’ parents

by beth on October 31, 2013

Post image for Neary Pilot hinges on community feedback, especially 4th graders’ parents

Last night, Neary School educators held a session to answer parents’ questions about the iPad Pilot.

More than 70 members of the community were in attendance (in addition to school representatives). The majority indicated they had 4th grade students at home.

The most notable comments of the night were from Superintendent Dr. Charles Gobron and Principal Linda Murdock. Both promised that they have no intention of implementing a project the community doesn’t want.

Gobron said that he may be a “little Pollyanic” but he hopes that they can come up with a program that addresses everyone’s concerns.

Gobron also addressed “comments from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education”. He has been speaking with someone from the department “to make sure anything we did was in compliance with [their] mandates”.

Murdock added that the school will be sending a survey out to parents of K-8 students to get feedback on how parents feel about the pilot. There will be an especially important section for parents of 4th graders. School officials need to know how many parents are planning to “opt in” vs “opt out”. Next steps will be determined after they see survey results.

Responding to a question, Murdock said they haven’t determined a “magic number” for how many need to opt in to make the pilot work. They know they can do it with overwhelming support. They can’t do it if they have very little support. The “middle” is unclear.

Parents courteously voiced specific concerns and questions that they didn’t feel were sufficiently addressed by the Frequently Asked Questions. Educators did their best to address the concerns. These included why the school won’t pay for the iPads, age appropriateness, the choice of technology, and clarification of a “seismic shift” to the way children are taught.

Funding was fielded by School Committee member Marybeth Strickland who said based on her long experience, it would never pass the budgeting process.

Strickland said that the school has been “treading water” with its budget in the last few years. The pilot goes beyond the definition of a”free and adequate education” that the town is required to pay for. Therefore she believes that adding the cost to their budget would never pass town meeting.

She explained that technology enhancements to the classroom were paid for in the past by parent driven fundraising. Murdock further clarified that those enhancements (like smart boards) were acquired over the course of years and cost much less than the 1:1 pilot.

Murdock turned over most of the student and technology related questions to teachers who were eager to respond. 

Several teachers expressed their enthusiasm for iPad use in the classroom. They shared their experiences with the way students are engaged in learning through iPad use. Teachers were passionate about what they described as a “tool not a destination in itself”. Examples were shared of enhanced learning through how they already use ipads in the classroom.

They also described constraints of sharing the iPad cart between classrooms vs having access to use them throughout the day. (They clarified that the iPads wouldn’t be continually used, just more flexibly.)

Two teachers passionately defended the age appropriateness of the project.

Kate Lord, a 4th grade teacher, said that 4th graders are the “perfect” age for it. She explained that it’s the year students are asked to “own” their learning. She sees them as eager to follow the rules and show responsibility.

5th grade teacher, Dave Stubbart, talked about the importance of teaching kids “good digital citizenship” at a young age. He drew comparison to the 5th grade DARE program, designed to prepare them to handle future peer pressure to engage in dangerous behavior. Stubbart talked about a need to teach them how to behave with and handle technology. The goal is to help them avoid creating a personally damaging “digital footprint” as they get older.

Murdock defended use of iPads vs laptops by saying that students aren’t learning business studies or engineering. She said that the iPad is a better tool for educational purposes. Jean Tower, the district’s Director of Technology, explained that the iPad’s “instant on”, vs booting up, and the long battery life make them better for use on and off throughout the day.

Some parents continued to express confusion about lesson plans and how the iPads will be implemented on a daily basis. Murdock explained that a “day in the life” description is hard to convey because days vary.

Teachers indicated that if the pilot proceeds, there would be several parent nights along the way. Parents would continue to be informed as their involvement is necessary to make the pilot work.

The parent survey will be sent out on Monday. K-8 graders’ parents will receive a link to an online survey. 4th graders will also bring a paper home to parents.

(Photo posted to Flickr by flickingerbrad)

1 just wondering October 31, 2013 at 11:57 AM

I believe Ms. Murdock indicated that the school currently has roughly 90 iPads and 300 students and that the 1:1 objective is essentially justified by the benefit of having them available throughout the day for random smaller bits of time, and not just for the limited one hour chunks of time they are currently used.

Are we missing an opportunity to rotate the current pool of iPads through classrooms in one day chunks as an interim step? Seems to me that something along those lines would be more consistent with a “pilot” program that would enable the administration to better identify and communicate the benefits. It would also provide more “evidence”/experience to address some of the concerns that have been raised.

2 Al Hamilton October 31, 2013 at 12:44 PM

“Strickland said that the school has been “treading water” with its budget in the last few years. The pilot goes beyond the definition of a”free and adequate education” that the town is required to pay for. Therefore she believes that adding the cost to their budget would never pass town meeting.”

This is “hogwash”.

1. We spend well in excess of the mandated minimums set by the state to assure an “adaquate” education. The school budget has increased steadily, particularly on a per student basis over the years so the “treading water” comment does not bear close scrutiny.

2. Further, Town Meeting has a consistent track record of approving school technology budgets when offered separately from the rest of the K-8 budget. Indeed there was never a case where this item was defeated. So, that statement also does not bear scrutiny.

No, this is about not wanting to make hard choices. Instead of deciding that some other item in the $17 million budget is a lower priority the School Committee is deciding to tax parents.

I take no position about the advisability of the program itself, but if it is important then it should be funded from the school budget and something else will have to go on the back burner. That way we can make sure that education remains “free” as well as “adequate”.

3 My Two Cents October 31, 2013 at 1:49 PM

I was in attendance at last night’s meeting at Trottier and thank the teachers and administrators for taking the time to answer questions from parents about the proposed iPad project. This was an important FIRST step and I suggest more of these forums should be setup for parents and other residents to learn about the program, ask questions and raise concerns BEFORE any decisions are made.

I am supportive of the project to bring more iPads into the classroom, however, I (along with many other parents) still have concerns about how this project will be funded and the logistics of iPad use. While I can see the utility and enhancement the iPads can create in the classroom, I strongly believe that the classroom is where they belong. This will allow for the appropriate supervision by teachers, limit the use to in classroom use, avoid the problems of lost/damaged/stolen iPads outside of the classroom and apply a consistent learning tool for all. I also do not think using them away from school should be part of this program as the decision for using them outside of school is and should remain a parental decision. If parents want to provide their own iPad for use by their children to use them at home or elsewhere, that is their right and decision.

My suggestion is that the School Committee should submit a separate Warrant Article to Town Meeting for funding iPads for all classrooms at Neary. This would allow all students the 1:1 experience, not limit teachers to short blocks of instruction during the day/week due to limited equipment and provide the creative learning environment desired by all. If the project is successful, future requests could be made to expand to other schools in the district. I would also suggest the equipment should be leased by the school district with an option to buy. As the technology aged, new equipment could be purchased and the older equipment could be “handed down” to the younger classes in Woodward and Finn, who would probably not need as powerful equipment.

If this project is as progressive as the enthusiasm shared by teachers, administrators and many parents present last night; this should pass Town Meeting with no problems. As an individual who has presented before Town Meeting for important projects, this is absolutely achievable, even in tougher economic times. It requires hard work, persistence, passion, transparency and addressing valid questions and concerns raised by parents and voters. I must admit, I was very offended by Marybeth Strickland’s comment, attitude and viewpoint of Town Meeting. Whether or not she likes it, Town Meeting is our legislative body for the community, who has a right and a duty to evaluate and decide on important programs for our children and town. As a resident who attends town meeting every year and who takes my civic duty responsibility seriously; it was offensive and surprising to hear and see such behavior from another elected official.

My largest issue with this project has been around the lack of information and transparency. To the credit of the school administrators, much more information has been provided in the past several weeks, but it appears much of it has been driven by serious and valid concerns raised by MANY parents and residents who did not know about this project until very recently. Administrators and the School Committee in particular would be well advised to listen to, engage with and address the ENTIRE range of issues being raised about this important project.

4 Anonymous October 31, 2013 at 2:45 PM

This is actually the stupidest thing that I have ever heard. The school is complaining about how they need more money to fix up the school and make it look better and more effective, yet the want more iPads. They will have no way of controlling what will happen on these and before you know it, kids will be playing Candy Crush when they should be working on them

5 John Butler October 31, 2013 at 3:01 PM

As reported here, Strickland’s comments about budget are mostly wrong. Some of this was noted by Mr. Hamilton but I will supplement with some specifics. The K8 system during the last year for which full reporting is available (FY12) spent $486,000 on instructional items, which included “classroom instructional technology” at $269,000, textbooks $133,000, and other technology and instructional materials $84,000. This is in addition to building networking and IT costs. All of these sums were from formal appropriations of tax monies. None was from parent fundraising. If there was parent fundraising it was in addition to these amounts. Note that these amounts are for one year and are, in total, about four times the projected cost of this program. If you want to verify the actual spending go to https://southboroughadvisory.shutterfly.com/resources and download 12eoy276.xls and look at line 1236 on the first tab (this file is the District’s own budget numbers reported to the State).

The notion that it “won’t pass Town Meeting” is also strange since under State law Town Meeting has no authority to say what any part of the $17 million budget is used for. The Superintendent could already have directed that $100,000+ of the “classroom instructional technology” spending, or any other money, go to this program if he so chose, and neither Town Meeting nor any other part of Town government could have any legal review of that decision.

Since this program is less than 1% of the total budget and annual increases have averaged several times that number during most years it is hard to see why, if additional funds were really needed, such funds would not be made available. I can recall no instance in which the School’s budget requests for technology money have been denied by any part of the budget process leading up to and including Town Meeting.

The overall point is that this Town funds public education. If this is needed for education, we do not want to disadvantage some children and parents by creating a program in which those who can afford it get the advantages of working with their own device in class and at home and those who cannot afford it suffer under a program that is described in the provided documents as less educationally effective.

6 Concerned Father October 31, 2013 at 4:39 PM

I couldn’t agree more with “My Two Cents” as well as Al Hamilton and “just wondering.” The main take-away for me last night was that the school just needs to increase the supply of iPads for in-school use, and this is the best/fastest way they could come up with for funding instead of the arduous task of planning for funding/fundraising.

There is no need to have the children take the iPads home. I believe the take-home program is also motivated by the fact that the iPads would be owned by the parents, and therefore, parents’ personal property. The school could not justify leaving the iPads at school if they were not school property.

The majority of the meeting last night was around promoting the use of the iPad in school. It has been said OVER and OVER again, that this is not about the iPad being a good tool; it is about the “plan” or lack thereof.

One parent said, the information presented in the Q & A lacked substance, and he still had a few questions. Later he said, let me ask the same question in a different way. That sums up how many of us have been feeling. Still no real answers–just a 2-year experiment on our children with no proven data for success. In addition, this has nothing to do with appreciating our teachers. We all appreciate their hard work. This is about our children!

7 just wondering October 31, 2013 at 6:37 PM

I too welcome the benefits of technology and tablets in the classroom at age appropriate levels – and appreciate the enthusiasm of the staff to embrace this effort.

As I think about this, it seems there are two main areas of opportunity:

First, using the technology to meet the defined learning objectives, and second letting the kids learn how to use the technology, appreciating that there is some overlap.

I’m most interested in learning more about which applications and software will be used to achieve the learning objectives/curriculum.

Will the apps be consistent between classrooms? What type of evaluation process will be performed and how will those apps be selected? I’m assuming this process will be similar to what I understand to be a fairly well structured process of selecting text books that meet the curriculum and learning objectives.

Which apps and how they will be selected was barely addressed in the Q&A last night or the materials sent in advance. This, to me is as, or more important than the decision to put 1:1 tablets in the classroom.

On the second opportunity, teaching the kids to use the iPads: Based on what I have seen they are incredibly user friendly and kids are often ahead of the adults as one of the teachers shared last night.

8 Frank Crowell October 31, 2013 at 6:49 PM

“Strickland said that the school has been “treading water” with its budget in the last few years.”

Really!

Then close a school, negotiate a better labor contract, challenge the internal group think within the school system, find ways to save some money, but please do not tell the taxpayers that we are just treading water on a $17M budget.

9 sboro concerned parent October 31, 2013 at 10:13 PM

I have also posted this on other threads, but I want to make sure that people know the following:

According to the Mass Dept of Education, the current opt-out program is illegal. The school system cannot discriminate against anyone for opting out for any reason. If a child opts out, they must be given exactly the same equal rights as the child who opts in (taking the iPad home to complete school assignments and homework). Having other homework options that are different from the opt in children is illegal and discrimination. The DOE said that if the policy is not changed, the Dept will get involved to make sure that all children have exactly the same rights and are allowed identical advantages from the iPad program.

I have been told by the DOE that if you choose to opt out, you have to be provided with an iPad, and given full and equal access to complete the required work (ie. finishing work at home and homework) The DOE has also warned other school districts about their programs and enforced changes. I am curious if these are the same districts that we are modeling ours after. In any event, Southborough is “on notice” with the DOE. I don’t know what that means, but look for changes to current plan from what was drafted. If my understanding is correct and a majority decide to opt out, what does that do to the budget? Has anyone planned for this?

I am not someone who has been speaking out before and am not necessarily against the program, but I am for equal rights for every child involved. When I read the guidelines for the opt out program, I felt that I had to question it, and everyone should know that it is against the law. All children should be treated equal and given exactly the same opportunities. I am happy to know that the Mass law supports that and will enforce it.

Bottom line is if this is resolved within the budget, I believe that the DOE is no longer an issue. Is there really an area (or multiple areas) where we can’t make a 0.6% cut in order to fund this project that some feel are so important?

10 Tim Martel November 1, 2013 at 9:23 AM

Thank you so much for this information!

As a parent of an upcoming 4th grader, how am I to objectively answer this survey knowing that anyone who “opts out” gets a free pass? It makes more sense to add the cost of these resources to the school budget instead of adding a tax on the parents. And if the school committee won’t do that, then I have to question the educational value of this technology.

11 Resident November 1, 2013 at 11:07 AM

Can you provide the communication from the Dept of Education that the says that Southborough’s proposed opt-out program is illegal? I’m surprised they have opined on your complaint so quickly and I’m sure there are many people in town that would like to read this decision in detail.

Also, you state that Southborough is “on notice” with the Dept of Education. Can you provide a copy of this communication from the DOE?

12 4th Grade Mom November 1, 2013 at 12:39 PM

sboro concerned parent is correct about illegality of the opt-out program. We called the DOE to confirm sboro concerned parent’s discovery and were told the iPad is in essence equivalent to a text book; therefore, it must be offered in the same way to all kids (allowing them to take them home). This discovery alone in itself tells you how prepared we are for this project. Wonder why this didn’t come up at this week’s pep rally!

Take a look at this article for what’s happening elsewhere:
http://thejournal.com/articles/2013/09/02/your-ipad-rollout-could-get-you-sued.aspx

13 under a rock November 1, 2013 at 2:49 PM

I too called the DOE this morning and was given the same information.
In the current scenario presented (in draft form) the iPad is being used as a textbook. The DOE case worker handling the situation in Southborough cited multiple precedents within the state of MA in which this issue has come to the forefront.

The MA Depart of Ed has determined that if not all children are given an iPad (to be used outside of the school) it is considered discrimination. Simply providing “homework choices” for children without iPads in their homes, puts them at a disadvantage.

Additionally, it is my understanding that the school received a grant in the amount of $20,000.00 to upgrade the schools network and wi fi capabilities. I am curious to know if there is a clause within the grant that stipulates when the technology initiative needs to be complete. This could explain the sudden push by the school to implement the 1:1 in January vs. in September.

14 sboro concerned parent November 3, 2013 at 9:01 PM

Sorry for the delay, but I was unavailable until now. I would like to give the details as to how I came to the above statement – I’ll allow you to decide its validity.

I initially called the DOE about a month ago to see if a Public School could demand $700+ in Private Funds. At that time I was told that my information was limited (since there was no documentation) but based on what I was stating where there was going to be three options 1 = Parent Provided iPad, 2 = School Provided iPad (if you met a financial need formula based on the free lunch program), and 3) the opt out where you were provided an iPad during school hours, and that was it.
I was told that since it appears that the iPad was going to be part of the curriculum the iPad would fall under the guide of Mass General Laws, Title XII, Chapter 71, Section 48. This section refers to Textbooks and supplies and states that they will be loaned to students. I was told that based on this information the iPad would have to be provided with full and equal access. Meaning that if homework were assigned to be completed on the iPad then an iPad would have to be available to all students for the same period of time (i.e. be taken home). They also stated that the school cannot make you “pay for a box of tissues let alone an iPad”. Your opt out reason can simply be that “you don’t want to buy one”, and again you will have to be provided full and equal access. This access is also applicable to the tool accessing it even if there were an application that could be accessed from home (i.e. web based access) this would not meet the equal and full access requirement.
The DOE stated that they could not confirm or act on this argument until they saw the program in writing, and that they would assign a case worker to start to “look into” the issue.

I forwarded the program to the DOE on Oct 29th (when the draft was available). I spoke to the DOE the next day and they informed me that, after reading the documents, they believed the program to be illegal. In particular they determined that the curriculum had been changed to be reliant on the iPad and thus the iPad was to be treated as a textbook, and that the opt out program was particularly at issue.

They stated that they had spoke to Dr. Gobron on Oct 29th and raised their concerns with him (I do not have the details). The DOE stated that Southborough was to be considered on notice and that the DOE was told that the program would be adjusted to meet the DOE needs. Dr. Gobron agreed that the program would be in compliance before implementation. The DOE also stated that they had already stepped in at three other districts (for the same and similar issues) and that precedence has already been set.

That is all of the information that I have. As you can see this was all done over the phone and as such I do not have any documantation; however, feel free to contact the DOE or Dr. Gobron to confirm what I have stated.

15 Concerned Father October 31, 2013 at 10:16 PM

Why aren’t any of the people in the know coming to these meetings? Such great information here.

16 Resident November 1, 2013 at 9:56 AM

Why do you assume that the people posting here are “in the know” and the school committee and school employees aren’t?

There seems to be a presumption among many that just because someone posts something here that it is true and absolutely correct. In fact it is much easier to draft a long thought out essay and post it here, than it is to come to the meeting and actually have a discussion with real people who can answer back.

17 SB Resident November 1, 2013 at 11:09 AM

He didn’t say that the school committee and school employees aren’t in the know, but when the people in the know have a stake in the game, they use what they know only for their side.

Also many people here have proven their reputations, so when they state the rules of our government, we trust what is said. If the comments here are not true and correct it is also very easy for someone to call them out on it.

18 John Butler November 1, 2013 at 12:12 PM

Resident, There are no restrictions limiting comments by any “real people” here. For example, I am quite flesh and blood, last I checked, and, “resident”, attend meetings under the same name I use here. I also provided a link to the District’s own data if someone doubts my budget statements.

On the other hand, there are restrictions at School Committee meetings on “actually having a discussion”, as you phrase it, since the School Committee, uniquely among Town committees, chooses not to ever have discussions nor allow staff discussions with anyone at their meetings. By their policy they will listen, but not speak to you. This is their free choice, but it creates a bizarre atmosphere, the sense that they consider themselves too important to actually stoop to talk to mere citizens. Yet those very same School Committee members expect to show up at other Town committees, at other venues, and have the normal public discussions that allow a democracy to operate. You are right that we all need to be able to be face to face to discuss topics of mutual concern. However, the barrier of the School Committee’s discussion policy is an insult to all citizens and prevents that face to face discussion you correctly advocate. In this context of artificially restricted discussion we are fortunate that this forum exists.

19 Sboro parent November 7, 2013 at 1:04 PM

That the School Committee apparently conducts itself that way in meetings must mean that they hope to pass things without question or discussion, and that is not fair to town residents, and especially not fair to parents and their children in our public school system.

It seems we need to vote in some new School Committee members, who will handle things appropriately and in an above board manner.

20 SB Resident November 1, 2013 at 10:41 AM

I just want to reiterate in this new thread my support for the above comments saying that we should find room for this in the school budget. I particularly agree with Frank Crowell. Tough decisions may need to be made, but clearly on the list of priorities this seems to have bubbled up, so their job is now to figure out what is now at the bottom.

I felt that they were contradicting themselves with the ‘free and adequate’ argument because the meeting was basically them telling us that given the availability of this technology our current education is no longer adequate.

To address sboro concerned parent that the current program is illegal, I’m not so sure. 1) I never saw anything that stated that children who opted out would be given different work. There is a current method that the kids upload to google drive and do work at home now, I didn’t see anything that suggested that the iPad program changes anything from the way we are doing it now. Second, correct me if I misheard, but in the meeting Dr. Gobron specifically said that they had received feedback from the state saying that the program was legal and they are very concerned about creating a program that is legal. So it’s your word against his, given his position I believe him.

21 Kate November 1, 2013 at 2:56 PM

First off, my three children all went to Neary, and had wonderful experiences there. I can’t speak highly enough about the excellence of the teaching staff.

As far as this project, I note a few items in the draft FAQ sheet.

The goal of the pilot is to “accelerate & enhance student learning by creating a personalized, student centered learning environment where every student has an iPad to use in school and at home.” Obviously the opt-out cohort would not have the benefit of an iPad at home.

Among the benefits of the program: “Parents can be true partners in their child’s learning, because projects on the iPad will be available at home and at school.” Those students without iPad would not enjoy this partnership.

Another benefit: “Students (with iPads) can have access to their information beyond the school day and outside their school so that their learning can continue.”

As to the problem being “solved,” the FAQ sheet holds that there is no problem, “rather, we are working to move forward to give our students an even better experience.” This language may lack some clarity for parents who are looking to be convinced of the value of the program.

As far as the homework, here’s what the FAQ sheet states: “If homework is assigned that does require iPad use, students who do not have access to an iPad at home will be provided with alternatives.”

Also, “If you opt out, your child will be assigned a school iPad to use during the school day and will have homework choices that do not require him/her to have an iPad at home.”

Were cost savings resulting from the adoption of iPads (textbooks, paper etc.) addressed at the meeting? It would be great to see the analysis of much money could be saved and applied to a program such as this one.

22 Neighbour November 1, 2013 at 3:51 PM

“Parents can be true partners in their child’s learning, because projects on the iPad will be available at home and at school.” Those students without iPad would not enjoy this partnership.

feel bad if someone needs iPad to be true partner with child.

23 Kate November 1, 2013 at 8:43 PM

I actually included this quote because I found it somewhat odd. However, I did not attend the information meeting, and perhaps this was explained. Is the partnership between parents and students considered lacking at present – what projects are currently not available at school and at home, and why? What is the thinking behind this, ie what difference does the iPad really make? I’m honestly curious.

24 Al Hamilton November 2, 2013 at 8:58 AM

“If homework is assigned that does require iPad use, students who do not have access to an iPad at home will be provided with alternatives.”

Separate is not equal, I thought we settled this a long time ago. Apparently not.

25 sboro concerned parent November 3, 2013 at 9:25 PM

Just to clarify, Dr. Gobron simply stated that he had heard from the DOE and that he assured them that they would never implement a program that was out of compliance (doesn’t say if the current form is in or out of compliance). He also stated that he didn’t like “getting his hand slapped” and that he “liked their funding”. I believe that since our meeting was on the 30th that this is in response to the DOE call placed to him on Oct 29th.

In regards to your question as to how things would be different if you opted out. If you refer to the Project Goals document on page 7 it states “ 3. Parents may decide not to participate in the program, in which case the student will be assigned a school iPad to use while at school.” This is a problem for the DOE since page 3 of this document also states “Students can start projects at school and finish them at home” and “Students can have access to their information beyond the school day and outside the school so that their learning can continue”. Page 8 of the FAQ asking if you can opt out states “Yes, you can. If you opt out, your child will be assigned a school iPad to use during the school day and will have homework choices that do not require him/her to have an iPad at home.” Also on page 8-9 under How will the iPad experience be different for students who opt out to use it only in school states “The difference will be in at-home use of the iPad. Students who bring the iPad home will be able to work on projects such as the example above at home, should they choose to do so. In some instances, students who do not bring the iPad home, may also be able to work on projects using a home computer, if the project can be saved on line using Google drive or similar option.”(When Mrs. Murdock was asked about this at the meeting, she said that this will not always be the case) In the next paragraph, “if homework is assigned that does require iPad use, students who do not have access to an iPad at home will be provided with alternatives.” Due to the fact that students without at home iPads could be at a disadvantage, this goes against the DOE’s stance on full and equal access regardless if there are other access options. The access needs to be identical. (ie: full iPad access)

26 SB Resident November 4, 2013 at 11:02 AM

I still don’t buy your logic. There are people who may not have internet access at home (might not be true anymore but I’m sure it was at some point over the last 10 years). When doing reports that require research, kids who have internet at home have an advantage, but the kids who didn’t were given alternatives such as the use of school computers during free periods or after school etc. This is a very similar comparison, and this type of thing has been going on forever, so separate may not be equal, but we settled on equality having reasonable limits.

It is one thing to disagree with the program, I do, I think it should be funded by the district. However, for this issue Dr. Gobron specifically said that they are obviously aware of the laws and are working with the DOE to guarantee compliance, so you are really creating a distraction which I believe undermines the legitimate arguments in this discussion.

27 SBRes November 4, 2013 at 3:12 PM

Sorry, but your argument comparing the web to text books is missing the key ingredient – the fact that the school is demanding the use of the iPad. In your example the school was not demanding the use of the web – any research would do. The main point to the argument is that the iPad is now part of the curriculum and as such must be provided.

I think that this is a very important point since the school is requesting that the opt in/out decision be made now. I would hope that this is straightened out very quickly so parents can make an informed decision. This is probably a very important point of interest for those parents trying to figure out if they want/need to pay for an iPad.

Also, I agree with sboro concerned parent’s recollection of Mr. Gobron’s statement regarding the legality of the program. Regardless I am sure we will find out since I believe that whoever has spoken to the DOE in the past will probably be doing so in the future and that this issue will probably resolve itself – hopefully before parents purchase an iPad if the above is correct.

28 4th Grade Mom November 4, 2013 at 5:16 PM

Interesting that today’s survey provided four options for parents to secure an iPad, but the options did not include one for parents to use the school’s iPad at home, as per the DOE . In addition, the new revised document outlining the project that was distributed today does not include an amended opt-out policy to reflect state compliance.

29 SB Resident November 4, 2013 at 5:21 PM

I think you are digging to deep here. If it is determined to be illegal to give kids work for home that requires the iPad, it is safe to assume that they will just not do that. The whole point is that they want the iPads in the classroom, they are just trying to sell the program and selling the usefulness at home is part of the sale.

30 Kate November 4, 2013 at 9:12 PM

I get where you’re coming from, but here’s the difference. Even if a student doesn’t have internet access at home, he/she can go to a friend/family/neighbor/the library and use any computer to access and complete work started at school and saved via Google drive. Work done on the student’s iPad is only available on the iPad (with exceptions, per the principal). Thus the student using a school iPad does not have the same opportunity to access work outside of school.

31 Concerned Father November 1, 2013 at 10:50 AM

That statement in itself is an assumption. I never stated that the school committee and the school employees aren’t. I am referring to the individuals posting who have lived here a lot longer than many and are “in the know” about the history of such financial endeavors. It would be helpful for those people to ask these question at these meetings.

32 Bruce November 1, 2013 at 4:32 PM

Has the district explored Apple Ed. financing / lease options or other grants to help with the costs? http://www.apple.com/financing/education.html
http://ipadeducators.ning.com/forum/topics/how-are-you-funding-your-ipad-program

33 Bruce November 1, 2013 at 4:44 PM

While we’re at it: Don’t we have a tech savvy neighbor eager to fund digital stewardship of our area? http://www.emc.com/leadership/features/emc-heritage-trust-project.htm

Perhaps a special project could be developed on track with the Heritage Trust statement to help preserve “Archives and records of local cultural or educational institutions and businesses.” Maybe the 4th grade students could record / photograph / make presentations about local cultural and educational institutions.

34 Sboro Mom November 4, 2013 at 11:25 AM

I just took the survey. I am not a parent of a 4th grader so the only question I really had was a free text question, asking what I thought about the project. There will be no way for them to quantify if non-4th grade parents are for/against the project as the question is totally subjective so I don’t know how they can say that they project will not happen if the community is not for it.

35 Tim Martel November 5, 2013 at 8:40 AM

I also took the survey, and was surprised at the lack of substance for non-4th grade parents. So my feedback will not matter whatsoever, even though my son starts 4th grade next year. How very disappointing.

I’m more than a little disappointed that the School Committee and the Superintendent agreed to submit such a pathetic survey to the community. Of course, I’m assuming that they were actually involved…

36 Sboro parent November 5, 2013 at 12:08 PM

I also found the survey for non 4th grade parents very slim. However, I went into detail in the comment part. I hope the surveys will be taken seriously.

37 southsider November 5, 2013 at 1:01 PM

from Sunday’s Boston Globe West section:

Paper? Check. Pencils? Got ’em. And – if you’re a Medfield eighth-grader – don’t forget the iPad.

The tablet computing devices have become an integral part of the district’s educational model for the eighth grade, after a successful pilot program last year. But, without room in the budget to outfit every kid with the technology, school officials asked parents to add iPads to their back-to-school shopping lists this fall.

At a time when technology is becoming as integral to some kids’ lives as backpacks and gym shoes, the move raises the question of whether expensive devices should be considered “school supplies” like calculators and Trapper Keepers, or if schools should pay for them, the same way they pay for textbooks.

I don’t recall any of the story referring to laws being broken in Medfield

38 Kate November 6, 2013 at 1:54 PM

Here’s what the Globe reports on this: “Vaughn (middle school principal in Medfield) acknowledged that some families ‘had a tough time philosophically’ with the idea of purchasing expensive technology for a public school program, and he said other families simply couldn’t afford it. Kids who weren’t able to get their own devices were allowed to use one of the iPads from last year’s pilot program. ‘I don’t want any child to feel left out,’ Vaughn said.” So it appears that Medfield complied by supplying iPads to all families who opted out of purchasing one. I’d imagine this would work in Neary, and solve any compliance issues, if iPads can simply be loaned out to those families who don’t buy one.

39 4th Grade Mom November 6, 2013 at 3:52 PM

Exactly! And, that is the right thing to do! Instead of taking an honest approach like that, Neary plans to wordsmith the documents presented thus far so that it appears that homework is structured in a way that does not “require” kids to use an iPad to do their homework.

40 sboro concerned parent November 5, 2013 at 9:16 PM

From what you have presented about Medflied, no one could say. They may have broken no laws. It is not against the law for any town to ask parents to buy anything. They are absolutely within their rights to “request” that you buy one. If you opt out, they are required to provide one with the exact same access. All children must have the exact opportunity and availability to the device and work. So, Medfield may be doing this and in compliance with the law. We also found out from the DOE that you have to actually file a complaint. If Medfield is not following the law, did anyone file a complaint? Just to reiterate, it all depends on the opt out clause.

41 Matthew Brownell November 6, 2013 at 10:58 AM

It is most likely an “all-or-nothing” scenario. Can’t jump half-way off the diving board.

Given that hundreds (probably thousands) of other school districts around the nation have successfully implemented iPad deployments, this is certainly not the first rodeo for Apple, for parents, or for school administrators. There should be plenty of sanitized project management “templates” and cut & paste policies that Southborough can use for the rollout.

No need to re-invent the wheel in order to be in compliance.

42 southsider November 7, 2013 at 2:31 PM

I don’t have a dog in this fight other than the future property tax increase that may be needed to support 1:1 computer initiatives. But I do have some comments:

I think those of you who feel the school administrators are trying to impose their will on the community or force our kids down an educational path that is not correct or proper are going a bit over the top in voicing your concerns and dissecting each and every communication from the school admin team. I think the pilot is being proposed by well-intentioned educators who have the kids best interests at heart.
I also think the school administrators have made this all a bit too complicated because of an unconfirmed belief that they can’t fund the pilot out of existing budgets OR will have their entire k – 8 school budget discarded at TM if they add the cost of the pilot to their budget. I think they’re wrong in this belief.
Maybe something a bit more straightforward like: If we try to keep up with latest trends in education and include a 1:1 computer pilot in our budgets, would you support this initiative? The intention would be to comply with all laws ( of course ) while developing a well-conceived pilot to determine the best way to keep the education of our students as current and competitive as possible.
Some encouragement and guidance will probably go much father in moving this along than much of what I’ve read til now.
I’d vote ‘yes’.

43 Sboro parent November 7, 2013 at 3:27 PM

From what I read, people have varying and mostly thoughtful concerns about this topic and how it has been introduced by the school and the School Committee. There has certainly been some anger, understandably, because of what seems like a lack of transparency and conflicting information. I think most of us feel that the school educators have the students’ best interests at heart. But there is the issue of cost, the issue of 4th grade children transporting a particularly delicate device back and forth from school everyday (if one version of the information is correct), and also parental concern about screen time. Some of us also feel that, if the school is going to implement a program such as this, there are electronic tools that would work better, and might be less fragile.

So, it is a loaded issue, no matter how well intentioned the educators are. I don’t have a big stake in it either, as my child is already in 7th grade at Trottier, but it would be impossible for me to say yes or no at this point when there are too many concerns still not answered.

44 Sboro parent November 7, 2013 at 3:28 PM

But I definitely agree with you that the school needs to offer to fund it.

Previous post:

Next post: