January 25, 2013 11:58:31 AM
Today, every teacher in the Starkville School District has a new laptop.
Gone will be the days of lugging six lesson plans and keeping up with tiny flash drives, and Rosia Jackson, who teaches at Sudduth Elementary, could not be more thrilled.
"We have kept information online, too, but I have usually just used my flash drive," the second grade teacher said. "Of course, sometimes my computer wouldn't pull up the same type of program on my home computer as it did at school and that would put me in a jam, but now with this laptop, I can just keep everything together."
The district approved the three-year lease program in November and accepted a bid from Synergetics for $127,000 a year. Each of the district's 350 teachers is receiving a new Lenovo E530 ThinkPad, a wireless keyboard and mouse and a docking station with a separate 19-inch, flat-panel desktop screen.
Jackson said the new technology is just another plus for her classroom, which she has seen transform from average to state-of-the-art in the past year.
Last semester, the SSD finished installing a Smart Board in every classroom, and the new laptops will be wirelessly connected to them. The Smart Boards are touch computer screens that resemble a square dry erase board.
"The Smart Boards are great, but I find myself running back and forth from each station to the board a lot, trying to explain different things to children," Jackson said. "But with the wireless mouse and keyboard, I'll be able to move around much more easily."
Superintendent Lewis Holloway says SSD is also leasing 20 extra computers, so if a teacher's laptop needs repairs, it can be substituted with a replacement while the original is being fixed.
"We can just swap them out, and it's not like you need to move a big CPU somewhere," he said.
Holloway, who moved to the SSD last year, brought with him the idea to lease the laptops rather than purchase them outright. It was a program, Holloway said, that had worked wonderfully for him at Bulloch County School District in Georgia, a district ranked eighth nationally in mid-sized schools for its technology proficiencies.
He said the benefits came from all angles at BCSD, and he thinks the same will happen in Starkville
"First, it was the most economic option," Holloway said. "It didn't require a huge capital outlay from the district, but it also puts teachers on the same standardized platform which was a big plus. We will save on repairs on older computers and on time with staff working with more productive items that are involved with teaching other than waiting on those repairs or other mishaps."
The laptops come pre-loaded with all of the programs the teachers would use, Holloway said, including the Microsoft Office Suite and the new InformationNOW student information system.
Holloway added that the three-year lease allows the district to stay on top of technological changes and ensures the district will get the best possible price.
"At the end of three years, we will send them back to Synergetics and we will release another bid and the teachers will get brand new computers," Holloway said. "This makes sure our technology stays up-to-date in every classroom."
Nicole Thomas, public information officer for SSD, said she thinks the laptops will be a big help for a profession that is often under-appreciated. The teachers will not be limited by the hours they can spend at school or even by the hours they can spend at home, Thomas said.
"As a district we want our teachers to have the resources that make their job easier," Thomas said. "They have a difficult, challenging job, and the more resources and tools and technologies we can provide to help make that easier, the better. That is our focus."