Technology to become sharper in schools this year, says Shafer

Technology will become sharper this year in the Huntington County Community Schools, Superintendent Tracey Shafer says.

The corporation is working on the network to provide higher speed Internet access for teachers and students, he says.

Huntington North high School now has 11 classes of one-to-one computing, he adds, and several second grade classes at Flint Springs Elementary will pilot a one-to-one laptop program.

Crestview Middle School has one-to-one social studies computing, which will allow stu-dents to access their electronic textbooks and omit hard copy textbooks.

"That'll be something that's kind of new and exciting in terms of technology use, to see that really come full circle into the curriculum area," he says.

Following the announcement late in the 2008-09 school year by Indiana Superintendent of Schools Dr. Tony Bennett that there will be no early release days, and that all schools must have 180 days of class, schools have been forced to re-examine their schedules.

Shafer says HCCSC will continue its Wednesday morning delay schedule, as he believes that time is important for teacher improvement. But what is being looked into are the half-day releases for professional development and parent-teacher conferences.

He says there will not be "half-days" but early release days instead. Shafer says students will now find they will be getting out about an hour early on those designated days. The remaining time will be used either for professional development training or the parent-teacher conferences. Shafer says the conferences will begin right after school gets out and continue into the afternoon, just like they have before. He thinks these days are important for the parties involved.

"Some corporations have just done away with (parent-teacher conferences), but we feel it's important that communication happen," he says.

This limits professional development and collaboration time, he adds. Teachers in the same buildings can get together, possibly on those Wednesday mornings when school is delayed, but it won't allow teachers from different buildings to get together. Shafer thinks this goes against the productivity the state is trying to create.

"Although I understand the intention to have 180 days of instruction, I think sometimes with all the best intentions you can make decisions that run counterproductive on what you're trying to get done," Shafer says. "I think that this is something that will actually run counterproductive because to have good, common planning time for all the teachers in a district as large as ours makes sense.

"That's something I'm disappointed that time was shortened, but we're going to make the best use of it we can."

This is where the network technology plays a part, he says.

He says there are new, additional factors and mandates the schools have to consider.

"We feel like we're not having to add; what we need to do is maintain some of the good practices we are doing and just make sure they are done more consistently."

A concern within the corporation is Lincoln Elementary, which has failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress for three consecutive years.

"We are really focused on creating a culture at Lincoln where we believe we can do well and we believe that every child there can be successful, and they can ... I've been so pleased with our staff there," Shafer says.
Shafer wants to take the expectations of the school to the next level.

"The first thing we have to do is really create an expectation that not only we can achieve, we will achieve."

He says data has been collected for about a year now and staff will be able to use that information. Additional staff has been hired to improve the school as well.

"I think this year we are going to start really seeing some of those efforts come together that have been put in place in the last two or three years," he adds.