Tech study report to inform plan for better use in instruction
By Jeanne Tao
The Board of Education of the Garrison School voted on Wednesday, April 3, to adopt the budget plan for 2013-14, with a reduced tax levy due to increased aid granted by the final state budget announced on April 1.
The estimated tax increase is now 2.18 percent, rather than the 3.11 percent that was anticipated at the last board meeting on March 20, or the original estimate of 3.89 percent at the beginning of the process. All of the estimated tax increases were within the state-mandated 2 percent cap, because of expenses exempted from the cap. Property assessment values, however, will not be known until August, so the tax levy may still change at that time.
Superintendent Gloria Colucci reported that advocacy, especially by school districts’ superintendents and board members who met with state representatives, along with a letter-writing campaign to the governor, made a difference in the increased state aid to schools.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget had originally cut high-tax aid (for districts with high property tax rates), but the state Legislature returned that aid in their final budget, which for Garrison School meant a restoration of $120,000. In addition, the state budget reduced the Gap Elimination Adjustment, returning about $32,000. The total state aid for next year, in fact, is now somewhat higher than the amounts for the previous two years.
An increase in expenses did occur with more information about special education placements. With new students in the district requiring services next year, there was an increase in instructional and transportation costs.
Consultant Jeff Sun, of Sun Associates and BOCES, presented his findings from a study of technology use in the school. Since October, he has been gathering information on technology use through classroom observations, conversations with focus groups of teachers, administrators and parents, and surveys of parents, students and faculty.
Sun found that Garrison students often use technology to create presentations, in Word or PowerPoint, for example, but that the use is primarily teacher-directed. Ideally, for inquiry-based learning, students would begin with a question to research and present, choosing themselves what technologies to use (or not).
The key to improving technology use, Colucci said, is professional development, with training in new technology occurring simultaneously with instructional training on, for instance, the newly adopted Common Core curriculum. In-house support would also help faculty become familiar with technology so that they could incorporate it more easily into their instruction.
Further steps in a technology plan, which is currently being created for the next three to five years using the results of Sun’s study, will eventually include improvements to infrastructure. This would likely mean future increases in Internet bandwidth and updated computers.