More than 200 teachers and parents at Irving School have signed a petition opposing a request by the district to have PTOs help pay for its ambitious technology plan.
Just as many parents showed up at last Tuesday’s school board meeting to voice their opposition. The district unveiled its “21st Century Learning” technology plan last month. It calls for an expansion of equipment and initiatives in classrooms. The initial cost of the entire plan was $8 million but that has been revised downward as directed by the board. Some members came up with the idea of asking parents and the community to help foot the bill for some items, such as classroom computers or LCD projectors.
But Tom Purrenhage, PTO co-president at Irving, 1125 S. Cuyler, said purchasing such items as computers or paying for teacher time has been prohibited by the district. He cited the district’s “gift policy” that governs what items are allowed to be donated to schools. Purrenhage said the ability to raise money for activities varies at each school. If the district asks PTOs to pay for certain technology needs, that, he warned, would put certain schools at an academic disadvantage.
“We are concerned that this will result in significant disparities in classroom technologies across the district,” he said. “The district is now actively asking PTOs to help pay for portions of what is a significant part of the academic plan for the district over the next five years. This puts PTOs in the position of not just supporting supplemental academic activities but also deciding if and when teachers and students have access to classroom technology.”
Purrenhage asked that the matter be referred to the policy committee for further review, a request the board obliged. Purrenhage also requested that the board review its current gift policy. He suggested the policy should include a more thorough approval process for donations, improvements in gift tracking, and a written plan for dealing with inequities in the district.
Supt. Constance Collins, though, said the district did review the policy a few years ago and included such guidelines and procedures.
The district in 2008 considered revising policy 7230 at the behest of the administration, including establishment of a $5,000 threshold for a donation that would trigger a review by administration, among other changes. The administration also wanted to include specific procedures on how gifts are approved, by whom and for what amount. The issue of equity was part of that discussion, given that enrollment at the schools varies.
But those additions, Collins recalled, were rejected by the PTO Council and never included in the policy.
According to the current policy, “Any equipment purchased by a parent organization for use in the school or at a district-related event shall be submitted to the principal or superintendent prior to purchase, so it can determined if the District would incur any liability by its use. The Board reserves the right to not accept such liability and thus deny the use of the equipment by students or District employees.”
In related news, the board last week also got a revised technology plan from the administration. Still to be implemented over five years, the new cost is around $4 million. The board did not approve the plan last week. It is expected to come back for a vote on April 27.