BY JO MOCCIA
I am writing in response to a letter that appeared in the Nov. 7 edition of the South Whidbey Record regarding the use of iPads at Langley Middle School.
I am certainly pleased with the writer and his ability to express himself, which was in no small part due to the outstanding foundation he received here at the South Whidbey School District. He acknowledges that the most important work teachers can do with our students is develop an educational relationship that is supportive and based in sound pedagogy.
We continue this work as we embrace the use of the tools that students will need to make their way in a world that we can barely imagine. We are moving at a pace that we have yet to comprehend. Unfortunately Mr. Zink has failed to check his source of information (this is by no means meant to disparage the Record or its reporters in any way) because the article to which he refers had some inaccuracies. Mr. Zink also failed to triangulate his data by looking for at least another source. I would like to take an opportunity to clarify the inaccurate information.
The school district has collected a capital levy of $950,000 annually for the last few years. $700,000 is earmarked for ongoing technology infrastructure and equipment designed to help students and teachers improve academic performance. This year, by design, we have piloted the deployment of iPads to students in grade 7. The cost of this pilot includes the purchase of 125 iPads. It also includes professional development for teachers and appropriate educational applications. This resulted in a total expense of $55,620 for this project. To assume that a puppet application is the reason for this purchase (as shown in the newspaper), or that it is the major use of the iPad, is simply short sighted. In familiarizing students with the units they were allowed to explore applications. This exploration, coupled with teacher guidance, was to familiarize students with the iPad capabilities and to help them think creatively. What was not captured by the news article is the amazing research that students are now able to do. For example, the use of 3D technologies allow for a virtual animal dissection and the replacement of expensive and back-breaking textbooks that become obsolete as soon as they are printed … the list goes on and on.
Mr. Zink goes on to misrepresent the financial status of the district. In fact, since 2006 the district has been experiencing declining enrollment. The district is not, and has not been, in debt or mismanaged since that time thanks to the oversight of the board of directors and financial savvy of Mr. Dan Poolman. The district carries, by policy, a fund balance (rainy day fund) of 6 percent of the total budget. It is unfortunate that the district has had to downsize due to inadequate state funding coupled with declining enrollment. I am thankful that the board had the foresight to ask the community to fund a capital levy, which is not allowed by law to be spent on teacher salaries, so that we may continue to support students with the tools they need to be career- and college-ready when they leave us. Mr. Zink is a terrific example of the outstanding educational programs that exist here on South Whidbey.
While there will never be a time when technology replaces teachers, tools like the iPad allow students to engage in their own education by allowing them to learn how to access the information they need. We cannot fly our science students into the eye of a hurricane, but we can explain the natural science behind the storms by taking them there through technology. Language, math, writing and every other skill needed to succeed in life can be enhanced through technological learning.
Like all educators and our school board, I am in the business of doing what benefits our students most, while having the least financial impact to our community. Educating the next generation takes foresight, creativity and money. Today’s students are the ones who will lead this country in the not too distant future. Administrators are not working against their teachers and students. We value our teachers, and we work hard and diligently to provide every available advantage so our students can succeed.
Jo Moccia is the superintendent of the South Whidbey School District.