Do the right thing, vote 'yes' for school bond | Guest View

By Mary Fitzmaurice, Explorer Middle School Teacher | Feb 05, 2014

On Feb. 11, citizens in Mukilteo and Everett will be asked to renew the Mukilteo School District’s Maintenance and Operations Levy, and to approve a $119.5 million bond measure that would finance new buildings and other improvements.

Those “other improvements” that are part of the bond measure include $10 million that will support technology projects. There are three technology issues that need to be addressed.

First, the district has a phone system that was installed in the 1992-93 school year and is no longer supported by the manufacturer, so when it needs to be fixed, the district does its best to replace parts to keep it running.

Upgrading would include opportunities to improve flexibility with telephone locations, provide more advanced features like video conferencing capabilities, and telecommunication options that cannot be considered currently because of the current system’s limitations.

If you’re asking why video conferencing matters, here’s one example: Students in New York who were studying HIV and preventative awareness were able to talk in real time to HIV-positive students in Africa.

This allowed them to learn first-hand from affected students, and made them think in a more personal way about a global problem and how they could contribute to its resolution.

Teaching professionals could also access professional development and other learning opportunities that might not otherwise be available.

Even if you feel you can’t afford to help bring the school district’s phone system up to speed, at the most basic level, you want to be able to call your local school and get information when needed, right?

Do the right thing and vote “Yes” on the bond measure.

Another technology improvement that passing the bond measure would provide would be the purchase of wireless computing devices, such as tablets, for student use.

Wisely, the district is not planning to follow the most recent fad for using technology, which is to give a device to every student. Instead they have a vision for implementing movable classroom sets of tablets that could be shared by all classrooms in a school.

Buying a set of 30 tablets is much cheaper than building a computer lab with 30 desktop computers or laptops. In addition, early research shows that the use of tablets and apps can produce improved learning outcomes for students.

Technology is not a fad and it’s not going the way of the dinosaur. We want our students to be able to live in, contribute to, and benefit from learning how to function well in an increasingly technology-driven world, right?

Do the right thing and vote “Yes” on the bond measure.

To support the use of tablets in our schools requires the installation of a wireless computer network.

A study by the National Center for Education Statistics using data collected in 2008 reported that an estimated 100 percent of public schools in the U.S. have one or more instructional computers with Internet access.

Furthermore, 41 percent of public schools in the Western region had wireless networks. That was five years ago.

One can imagine that by now the percentage of schools with wireless networks has risen, but Mukilteo cannot count itself amongst those districts with wireless networks.

“Because everyone else has one” is not a reason to purchase a wireless network, but purchasing wireless devices and a network will support students’ mastery of Common Core State Standards skills and provide better access to computerized state testing, a necessity coming our way in 2015.

For all the money you’re paying to educate tomorrow’s decision-makers, you want students to have the opportunity to learn and master skills that will help prepare them for gainful employment and not the welfare rolls, right?

Do the right thing and vote “Yes” on the bond measure.

Full disclosure: I’ve lived in Mukilteo for more than 25 years, my two grown children were educated in our public schools, and I’m a teacher in our school district.

As a school district employee for more than 18 years, I have seen the technology in our schools grow from a woeful hodgepodge of computers to a carefully managed, conservative and careful implementation of educationally sound hardware and software. Now it’s time to support the next step, technology-wise.

The proposed $119.5 million bond measure, which includes the technology projects described above and many other projects which are needed to maintain our quality school system, adds an average of $249 per year to the tax bill of homeowners whose property is worth around $300,000.

While $249 seems like a significant yearly increase in your taxes, when you divide it by the number of students our school district must educate, around 14,000, the increase amounts to 1.7 cents per student, per year. Not even two pennies.

Aren’t the children in the Mukilteo School District worth this minimal investment in our future? Do the right thing and vote “Yes” on the bond measure come Feb. 11.

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