Connected Classroom Showcased at Work Session
Connected Classroom Showcased at Work Session
The technology revolution continues to transform WFISD classrooms
Associate Superintendent Peter Griffiths addresses board members in a Jan. 10 work session to explain the current technology successes and needs on local campuses.
Teachers who are on the cutting edge of the District’s technology revolution report that digital tools and projects have been well received in their classrooms.
More and more WFISD teachers are immersed in technology, using it frequently to teach their lessons and expecting students to use it to demonstrate learning.
Ben Franklin teacher Lexi Law participated in a live video stream from her classroom during the work session to explain how she uses Chromebooks in her class.
The technology update came in Tuesday’s board work session.
The District’s decision to stock entire grade levels with digital devices, one per student, requires that, as students move up to the next grade, the tools go with them, said Peter Griffiths, associate superintendent.
It also requires a wave of tech training for teachers that must continue to flow to upper grades to keep pace with students who have now become accustomed to learning on laptops, Chromebooks and iPads, he said.
The District has hammered out a five-year strategic plan that focuses on funding the increasing need for devices and organizing the training for an ever-growing number of teachers, said Mr. Griffiths.
“This could be money well spent,” said board member Bill Franklin.
The District uses money for its tech budget that was formerly allotted to textbook purchases. “We can (afford to) continue the one-to-one program,” said Superintendent Mike Kuhrt. “It’s all the extra” that will challenge the budget, he said.
The District is considering running its own fiber, which will open up a world of competitive bidding, said Mr. Kuhrt. The Texas Legislature, which began its 140-day session today, may help school districts by allotting more money to them, and the Texas Education Agency may pitch in by helping pay for e-rate funding.
These changes and more could result in more money for classroom technology, he said. But Districts still face uncertainties, such as how long a Chromebook will last in the classroom. Once students get to high school, most have their own devices, which they can bring to class, reducing the necessity of the District providing a device for them.
“This is the tool that enables the learning. We’ve got to use the new tool,” said Mr. Kuhrt.
“Are we seeing achievements on the back end?” asked board member Elizabeth Yeager.
Mr. Griffiths explained that he did not expect test scores to suddenly rocket to 90 percent pass rates. However, when students – like his daughter -- enjoy using the new technology, they will use it more and their learning will increase. After doing in-depth research on a Chromebook for a report on, “Why Is the Ocean Blue?” and pulling charts, photos, and statistics for her presentation, his daughter will be ready to answer any STAAR question thrown at her on that topic, he said.
Technology has already shown teachers that it appeals to all students in the classroom, from the gifted and talented student to the economically disadvantaged to the special education student to the English language learner. Therefore, it has the power to engage them all in learning, which will be beneficial when it comes time to test them.
The District uses a program called Go Guardian to track tech usage across all campuses. Last month, it recorded 19,973 users in the district. The District sent 212,000 e-mails and used 1.6 million files last month.
The No. 1 most used website is Google Classroom, then Google Docs.
2017-2018 School Calendar
The District’s 50-member Calendar Committee came to an overwhelming agreement on a calendar that begins on Thursday, Aug. 17, and ends May 25, with graduation on May 26.
Calendar coordinator Debby Patterson called the calendar “very family friendly” and noted that it allows two more full days of teaching time than is required by law.
For students, the calendar includes a three-day break for Thanksgiving, (Nov. 22-24), 13 days at Christmas (Dec. 18-Jan. 3), student holidays on Jan. 15 and Feb. 19, and spring break from March 12-16.
The calendar includes two inclement weather days on April 27 and May 18.
The committee praised the calendar for its fairly balanced number of days in the first and second semester: 81 days in the first, 91 days in the second. The calendar includes 15 teacher staff development days.
District of Innovation Update
The committee studying the option of becoming a District of Innovation completed its work Monday, Jan. 9. A draft of its proposed plan will be given to the District Advisory Committee on Jan. 12, then posted on the WFISD website for 30 days as it heads toward a final consideration and vote by WFISD board members one month later.
The plan includes “six or seven” tweaks to the education code, such as leeway on changing the school start date, that will give the district added flexibility, said Mr. Kuhrt. The committee had good communication and teacher input, lots of time, and did lots of outside research. “I’m satisfied with the process,” he said.
Career Education Center Update
The board will receive a full update on construction of the District’s Career Education Center on Tuesday, Jan. 17. The building is not yet completely “in the dry” but has windows and is progressing without problems, said Mr. Kuhrt.
Career Education Center furniture update
Tim Sherrod, interim chief financial officer, reported to board members that the District had chosen KI Furnishings as its broker and provider of furniture for the CEC.
Mr. Sherrod was part of a committee of four who rated five furniture companies and chose KI Furnishings, which will allow the District to purchase through a co-op. Furniture samples will arrive at the Education Center by the end of January, said Mr. Sherrod.
The District will take full advantage of the company’s interior designer, who will help the District achieve its desired “look” and coordinate that look throughout the building, he said.
Budget Amendments Passed
In a 7-0 vote, board members approved budget amendments to the 2016-2017 budgets as presented by Mr. Sherrod. He clarified that there were no increases to the budget and that all items were “just cross function transfers.”
Pat Hoffman, property administrator for the City of Wichita Falls, addressed board members to ask them to accept 39 of 46 resale bids in the amount of $44,407. She recommended rejecting seven bids.
The properties were all part of a large-scale resale project done by the City. There were 157 parcels made available to the public for bid, a portion of the 700 it currently oversees.
The seven parcels that she recommended rejecting either did not meet developmental requirements or were worth substantially more than bidders gave for them and can be offered for sale in other ways to bring a greater profit.
Currently, the City maintains more than $1 million worth of property that it cares for by mowing, cleaning, or demolishing structures.
Board members will vote on the bids next Tuesday, Jan. 17, at their regularly scheduled board meeting.
In a 7-0 vote, board members approved the hiring of six new employees – five teachers and one nurse – with a combined three years of experience.
Director of Human Resources Cyndy Kohl asked board members to approve adding Dayna Hardaway to the list of WFISD appraisers of teachers. A list of 69 employees who are T-TESS appraisers shows who attended the required three days of training in 2016. They completed the T-TESS appraiser qualification and passed the certification exam.
Mr. Kuhrt was listed as attending the T-TESS training in Austin in January 2017 and his appraisal training is pending. Five other WFISD employees attended T-TESS training in early August 2016 and have yet to pass or document their passing of the certification exam.
Localized update policy
The DNA (Local) policy was updated to reflect the District’s new legal processes, said Debby Patterson, executive director of school administration. It reflected the switch in the teacher appraisal system from the former program, PDAS, to the new one, called T-TESS.