I’ve never thought of Vermont as “poor and rural” inspite of the image I had of it as nothing but forests and maple syrup farms--or whatever they call them ... maple groves, maybe? So I was surprised to read about one school superintendent’s difficulty in upgrading the public schools in his district: Ned Kirsch, superintendent at Franklin West Supervisory Union (FWSU) in the small town of Georgia, Vt., population 4300.
He says that upon his arrival in Georgia, he was pleased with the schools that he found. The problems in the schools were not with the “hard-working teachers, committed administrators, and 2,000 excited students;” instead, those excited students needed a connection to the technological world outside Northern Vermont.
Twenty-first Century technology had made its way to Northern Vermont, these teachers and their kids were by no means out of the techno-loop. But the technology was largely confined to labs and, he says “with that technology came “homemade” wireless networks, no real replacement cycles, aging infrastructure, inefficient school-based email systems, inadequate helpdesks, no embedded professional development, and “dusty” web pages.”
Superintendent Kirsch’s first act was to get all the school administrators smart phones. This might sound silly, but think about it -- it really isn’t. Only one of those administrators previously owned a smartphone. I mean, who doesn’t own a smartphone in the education industry these days? And how can you expect to connect with students who are constantly on the Internet without one? Anyway, it worked, and these same administrators soon had Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.
After convincing administrators that he was on the right track, he spoke to administrators in other districts. They worked together to update the combined help-desks and student information systems as well as the wireless infrastructure (earlier referred to as ‘homemade’) and the infrastructure in general.
The new emphasis on technology in Northern Vermont schools is still a work in progress. Superintendent Kirsch is well aware of this and intends to keep working to see that his students get the technology they need to prosper in the future.