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CKSD’s budget woes straining technology program

In the age of ever-changing technology, Central Kitsap School District is experiencing numerous difficulties with funding, technology updates and providing a sufficient number of computers for students.

“There is absolutely no funding for technology,” said CKSD Director of Technology Services Janet Harris. “Right now, there is uneven funding across the state of Washington.”

After CKSD board members met for a special study session on Wednesday, April 28, the overall recommendation for technology resources was to cut $250,000. Although the Office of the Superintendent in Olympia announced the funds that each school district will receive from the state — the CK district is receiving $3,000 for each elementary school, $6,000 for every junior high and $11,000 for each high school — the amount is not nearly enough to bring all of the district technology up to speed.

“It’s important to think of how large of a system it is that we’re trying to support,” Harris added. “The Central Kitsap School District network is one of the largest, outside of the military, in Kitsap County.”

Along with cutting $250,000, Harris said another option for the technology program is to leave two full-time network specialist positions and one enterprise systems engineer position unfilled, saving a potential $144,770.

However, the technology program isn’t just computer screens and keyboards.

Included in this category are microscopes in science classes which hook up to a classroom computer allowing students to obtain factual and correct results. The technology program also includes overhead projectors, graphing calculator digital projectors and classroom broadcasting materials.

“You aren’t able to this if you don’t have that technology,” said CKSD Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Julie Goldsmith. “(Technology comprehension) is an essential skill that students need to have by the time they graduate.”

Harris added with the new state requirements for No Child Left Behind (NCLB), all children must be technologically literate by the end of eighth grade.

“But there’s no funding to get there,” Harris explained. “If you want to be competitive in the world market, you have to be (skilled) in technology.”

Because technology programs and hardware practically change on a monthly basis, CKSD can’t afford to make life cycle replacements as often as recommended. For the typical business, Harris said they replace their computers every three to five years, and less than that for server upgrades. CKSD replaces its computers every seven to eight years, long after many software programs become outdated.

Harris added the district has begun to utilize some programs off the Open Source Software program, which is a “development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process,” according to the Web site www.opensource.org.

Currently, there are nearly 5,000 computers throughout the district, with almost 200 of those donated by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with teacher training sessions.

Although the district does accept computer donations, Goldsmith said it’s a challenge because they have to be of a certain standard.

“A lot of times, donations aren’t usable after we get them,” Harris added.

With budget decisions for technology still on the horizon, Harris said that more than anything, she wants to see equality in technology across the district. The four goals that the Technology Sub-Committee is focusing on for the 2007-08 school year and beyond are ensuring equitable distribution and access to technology equipment district-wide, creating a system to support and train all staff in becoming technologically literate, establishing curriculum and instructional expectations to ensure that students are acquiring essential technology skills and developing and implementing instructional strategies for the integration of technology into the district-wide instructional program.

“We really believe every child in Central Kitsap should have the same opportunity no matter what classroom they’re in,” Harris said.

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