Santa Fe Public Schools announced Friday that it is buying $2.4 million worth of Apple computers to help improve student math scores through Web-based instructional programs.
Currently, only about 32 percent of eighth-graders are proficient in math.
The Apple order includes about 1,270 iMacs, 155 MacBook Pro laptops, 870 iPads, 21 Apple TVs, and support services including implementation, training and maintenance. The school board voted 5-0 to approve this program at its meeting July 17.
“This plan should create more of an enthusiasm and interest for students in their own learning, and that in itself can be a difference-maker,” said the district’s chief financial officer, Carl Gruenler, on Friday.
Gruenler, who spearheaded the campaign for the new equipment, said former superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez asked him to oversee the district’s technological advancement in mid-June.
The district has since hired Elias Bernardino as its new executive director of technology and information systems. Former tech director Sondra Adams has moved to the Office of Student Data as director.
The new technology will be installed in 19 classrooms and laboratories at the district’s three public high schools — Santa Fe High, Capital High and the Academy at Larragoite — and in two classrooms at Ramirez Thomas Elementary School by mid-September. In addition, Wood Gormley Elementary School will receive a mobile iPad lab. Many of the high school iMacs will be designed for ninth-grade math classes, though a few teachers instructing other topics also will receive them.
The effort focuses on engaging tech-savvy kids via interactive instructional offerings, like those found on the nonprofit Kahn Academy website. The latter almost works as a school in itself, as it offers free instructional videos and computer programs in a variety of subjects. It also offers visitors the chance to pursue a self-help lesson plan and set their own pace for learning.
At that July 17 board meeting, Gruenler told the board that the implementation of the new technology is a very “robust project” that will “offer a window to the world of education.” Over the course of about 75 minutes, the board members and interim superintendent Tom Sullivan questioned Gruenler and Apple representative Lee Williams regarding the cost and professional development needed to make sure the project is a success.
Sullivan was superintendent of Farmington Public Schools when it adopted Apple computer technology more than a decade ago. “Apple has had a lengthy run with educational software. It is far more education-friendly than PCs,” Sullivan said by phone Friday. “In Farmington, we found that the level of support we needed — computer breakdowns and repair and technical support — was dramatically reduced once we shifted to Apples rather than PCs. It also saved us money on the number of staff we needed to help support the district’s technology.”
Though some board members were concerned about whether teachers impacted by the new technology would receive enough professional development time to make it work, Gruenler and others said teachers can use one of their two weekly hourlong prep periods to undergo training.
Aspen Community Magnet School counselor Bernice Garcia-Baca, National Education Association president for Santa Fe, said by phone Friday that teachers remain concerned about the issue, but she said if efforts are coordinated at each school site, the training could be done in-house as planned.
Gruenler said the training will be completed in several stages, with Apple personnel overseeing the first stage and helping teachers tie the various pieces of the plan — the iMacs, iPads, Mac TVs and interactive SMART boards — together. Ideally, teachers who are more tech-savvy will serve as mentors for others.
Gruenler said the district has about 1,400 outdated personal computers that cannot support upgrades to the much-needed Windows and Microsoft operating programs. Some of these computers will still be used in the elementary schools.
As for the new iPads and iMacs, each class will have a dedicated iPad and probably at least two iMacs, Gruenler said.
The initiative will be financed by mill-levy funds for capital improvements.
Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or firstname.lastname@example.org.