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South Salem to receive top technology
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 The Newton County Board of Education approved several technology expenditures at Tuesday's regular monthly meeting including 229 computers and 52 Promethian ACTIVboards for South Salem Elementary School, which opens in fall 2008.

Of the allotment, each classroom will contain two computers for student use and one for each teacher or administrative staff member. The remaining computers will be dispersed between the two computer labs.

With 63 classrooms, roughly 82 percent will be equipped with the interactive white boards. Each white board and accompanying software will cost $4,175 for a total of $217,100, and the money is expected to come from the capital projects fund.

Newton County schools currently have 81 interactive white boards throughout the system and the addition of such a large number in one school has members of the board questioning whether the technology infrastructure is ready to support the staff.

"Do we have enough personnel to offer the proper training for all this technology we are implementing," asked board member Rickie Corley. "I look at the personnel sheets and I don't see a lot of new technology people and I'm worried we might be stretching people a little too thin."

According to Linda Hayden, associate superintendent for instruction, the county uses various training programs and network groups to teach new technologies, and a group of eight teachers has volunteered to teach workshops over the summer in order to bring new teachers up to speed with the white boards.

Corley said it may be a good idea in the future to equip each school with a technology professional, especially with the ever increasing dependence on computers and interactive white boards.

As it stands, schools throughout the district share technology resource specialists. But Superintendent Steve Whatley says the board may need to revaluate the needs as the district expands.

"It is a concern, that with the ever increasing amount of technology and programs the teachers rely on, how important it is keeping the network up and running," Whatley said. "It's not just the network, but the software on the computers and such, so it's important we look at it during budget time."

Since South Salem has not planned to install televisions, the ACTIVboards will double as viewing mediums for live TV and Internet broadcast feeds.

Along with the new technology, the board approved a bid by MediaCast to provide the online broadcasting and live TV feeds in classrooms not only at South Salem, but at Middle Ridge as well. The broadcast feeds will run from computers through projectors onto the white boards.

 In other news from Tuesday's board meeting:

 • The BOE approved Middle Ridge Elementary School's bid for implementing a uniformed dress policy beginning in the 2008-2009 school year.

 Principal Karen Crowder presented the policy at last week's BOE work session meeting and outlined the school's plan to require students to wear pants, shorts and skirts in either navy, black or khaki, and either collared or T-shirts in navy, black, red or white.

Middle Ridge is the fourth Newton County school to adopt such a policy. Porterdale, Ficquett and Heard-Mixon have similar dress codes.

While the BOE unanimously approved the proposal, they have no plans to mandate a county-wide uniform policy.

Superintendent Steve Whatley said last week after Crowder's presentation that each school handles dress policies internally and code enforcement is the responsibility of each school's council.

 • New graduation requirements will give students who fail to earn the necessary credits to graduate, the opportunity to attend the following year's commencement ceremonies. The amendment says that students are required to earn the missing credits within the timeframe of the following school year in order to participate.

 In the past, parents have questioned whether the board should allow failing students to walk with their graduating class, while still having to earn the necessary credits for their diploma.

 But the board has held firm regarding the issues surrounding commencement ceremonies. The addition of the amendment is a compromise, so-to-speak, and gives students a second chance while not compromising the integrity of graduation.

• The board approved the elementary and secondary handbooks as well as the secondary planning guide. But Hayden has not finalized the section in the planning guide concerning the honor graduate requirements.

Board member Johnny Smith questioned the requirements for the honor graduates as they are currently stated, during the presentation of the new planning guide at last weeks meeting. The board approved the guide with the understanding Hayden will make the necessary revisions that reflect new requirements.

A change was made to the process in which citizens can voice complaints to the board. The revised language says those who wish to file a formal complaint in writing can do so without providing their name and contact information. In the past, the policy stated complaints had to include contact information.

Corley openly questioned the old policy, stating that it actually discouraged concerned parents and members of the community from speaking up in fear of retaliation, especially with regards to teachers and school staff.

"We want everyone to offer suggestions and voice their opinions," Corley said. "We don't want to discourage anyone away from that."