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Tech grants will help schools

Area school systems are getting a minimum of $55,000 each thanks to the Elementary Secondary Education Act, or ESEA.

The bill is part of the 2001’s “No Child Left Behind Act” and has established the Enhancing Education Through Technology program, or EETT, which is providing the awards to Alabama’s school systems.

“The professional development component of these grant will help enhance and integrate the ACCESS (Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators and Students Statewide) distance learning initiative announced by Governor Riley and the Alabama Department of Education last month,” State Superintendent of Education Dr. Joseph B. Morton said.

The Mobile County School System received the largest amount with a $389,486 grant, while smaller systems in the Black Belt obtained less than half of the large county.

Among systems in the region, Clarke County, Demopolis City, Greene County, Hale County, Linden City, Marengo County, and Perry County have received $55,000 each and Sumter County schools received $56,000.

“Twenty-five percent of this grant needs to go to professional development so we’ll use this as a bonus for our teachers,” Demopolis City schools technical coordinator Sherry Feller said. “We’ll use the rest to purchase laptops, computers and digital cameras for teachers.”

Feller said the computers and laptops are a necessity for the schools teachers, but the digital cameras will serve as a gift to the system’s Tech Champs, who are staff who applied to become members of a technical support team.

“We want to take our professional development further,” Feller said. “And we are going to get more help in the classrooms so that we can make technology more than just technology, but as a means to learning.”

Marengo County superintendent Luke Hallmark said his four county schools will use the grant to purchase computers, enhance professional development and improve technical service support.

“Our technology director Larry Henry wrote the grant, but we will divide it among the schools based on the need,” Hallmark said. “The exact amount will be determined by wherever we deem they need it most.”

Linden City School superintendent Walter Davis said his schools apply for the grant every year and won’t do too anything too different with the funds than what they’ve been doing in the past.

“We’ll use the funds to operate all four schools in the system,” Davis said. “The main thing is to keep our technical program going, so we’ll use it for whatever is needed in the system.”

“There are several things we plan to do with our grant,” Hale County superintendent Joseph Stegall said. “Like most systems in the area, we are faced with tremendous expenses to maintain out technological hardware.

Stegall said the grant will be used to pay for consultants to come into the system to help an individual from each school learn how to maintain the school’s website.

“We are also doing more development on the system’s website and we are trying to maintain it better than we have in the past, so we’ll buy new software,” he added.

In order to expand Hale County’s distance learning opportunities, Stegall said they will also purchase additional LCD projectors to use with existing Smartboard technology.

“We are going to work a lot on technological professional development,” he said. “I want to get rid of this ‘fly by night’ technology knowledge our teachers have.”

Thus, the Hale system is working on the development of www.haletech.net, a site to aid teachers with everything from lesson plans and teaching suggestions to fighting viruses and using PowerPoint.

“We are concerned with getting stuff for the teachers together first,” he said. “We want to give our teachers something so they can have access to lesson plans for any course in any grade right at their desk.”

By increasing technological access in elementary and secondary schools, EETT hopes to improve student academic achievement, provide professional development activities and curriculum development, and improve technological literacy by the end of eighth grade.

This year, EETT grants total more than $3.4 million to divide among 46 of Alabama’s public school systems to help improve technology use in the classroom.