Back in March, South Washington School District 833 voted to eliminate 22 teaching positions, increase walking distances for middle/high schoolers and eliminate four administrative support positions in order to save $2.2 million from the budget. They will vote on the final budget in June, after they see how much taxpayer money Governor Dayton and his DFL cronies will be giving to the insatiable school districts this year and next. The district recently presented a survey to 400 residents that was meant to gauge the community's feelings about the district, the superintendent, the board, the teachers and whether or not the community would support a levy renewal this fall and/or an increased levy renewal this fall, as well as community support for providing all students with personal computing devices such as tablets or iPads.
Even though the survey revealed that only 6% of the people support individual computer devices for students in the district, the powers that be have just rolled out a new initiative: "T3=Transforming Thinking Through Technology." This should be no surprise to anyone who attended Superintendent Keith Jacobus's "Parent University" forums, which basically are a sales pitch for balance balls and more "movement" in the classrooms (exercise miraculously increases test scores; active kids do better in school; if that's the case, my kids should all be geniuses, but I digress...) as well as how iPads will add to the children's learning experiences in the classroom. Not only add to it, but also (not completely of course...) replace traditional teaching methods, like books, since everything can now be in digital formats and teachers will be able to add content as they please.
The concept, from an education standpoint is interesting, so it is unsurprising that the district is preparing to roll out this initiative, especially considering that Keith Jacobus, Ron Kath, Jeff Jorgensen and Randi Anderson enjoyed an all expense paid (by Apple) trip (except for airfare) to Apple, Inc. in March. It makes one wonder - if the district agrees to purchase, say, MacBooks for all the teachers, then they get a trip to Apple, Inc. (in California) to learn "How to Bring Common Sense Back to Their District," then suddenly they roll out an initiative that will put iPads in the hands of students in 4K - as in the District's PRESCHOOLS - as well as in select elementary, middle and high schools, with the goal to eventually have iPads available to all 17k+ students in the district, how expensive to the district taxpayers that all-expense paid trip to Apple really was? It would seem that it would be to the tune of about $7 MILLION, which in the end, isn't really a free trip for four administrators, is it? And where does that include "bringing critical thinking back to the district"?
The irony is that if these four administrators were anything but part of a school district - say they were in any other public office - that all-expense paid trip would actually break the State's Gift Ban law, which makes it illegal for state officials to accept anything worth more than $5 from anyone. Somehow, school officials are not included under that law even though Apple, Inc. is a registered lobbyist in the State of Minnesota.
Once again, our District is happily ignoring the people and what they want - remember the Budget battle where keeping teachers had the most support of the people and that was the first thing the Board and Administration decided to cut? - and are pushing forward with their plan for iPads for students regardless of the fact that 94% of the people in the community said they didn't support that initiative.