Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Here's the Tradeoff for Tech versus Buildings

I'm off to go listen in on the Work Session this afternoon about Capital Program Planning. 

I was talking with an aide to a City Councilperson yesterday about this very issue.  Apparently the staff and families at the NW Center for Kids have been very active in reaching out in all directions to try to stay in the SPS building they currently occupy.  He was mystified at how there could be two groups - Cascade and NW Center for Kids - both whom serve special needs children that have somehow become pitted against each other.  Inwardly, I thought, "Well, that's about par for SPS." 

He was also surprised at the lack of preventive maintenance in our school buildings especially given how packed and well-used they are.  Again, no surprised if you know that the district has cut back on maintenance since the late '70s.  They cut back and never looked back. 

Well, there has been a lot of hand-wringing from Board members and superintendents and staff and yet, not much has changed.  Plus there are more buildings open and in use than ever.  And, the district has spent - over the last 20 years - upwards of $1B on renovations of buildings.  It's a bit of folly to pay out for expensive new buildings and then not keep them up especially when a district is continuing to use old buildings that are upwards of 60,70, 80 years old.  Just off the top of my head, I'd say half the buildings in the district are probably about 45-50 years old and the life span of most schools is about 25-30 years. 

But another issue, that is having its own Work Session tomorrow, is Technology.  As I previously reported, technology will receive fewer dollars under BEX IV because the building need is so great.  But so is technology.

Common Core is a computer adaptive test.  All this data that is being generated that is so vital (apparently) has to flow through technology.  And yet we have many old buildings and not enough dollars.  Hard choices will be made.

LAUSD spent about $1B for iPads recently and boy, the blowback has been severe. Here's a recent story that outlines out LAUSD officials admit they ignored computer inventories when making the decision to buy iPads.

KPCC reported last week that many schools were scheduled to receive the new tablets to take digital state tests  - even if they already had fleets of laptops, iPads or other devices.

“So the number of carts and iPads they are getting are based on the total number students regardless of existing computer resources?” asked Quynh Nguyen, a member of a school board committee probing the iPad program.

“That is correct,” replied Oscar Lafarga, an administrator for the district. He said the district only took into account how many students would be tested.

The district says it could not afford to take inventory because of the recession.  BUT, the School Board told them to and the district did and the results were released two days before one purchase occurred. 

To show you the extremes of this issue, I give you the new Facebook page, Repairs, not iPads
 Photo after photo of some pretty undesirable conditions in school after school.   But hey, iPads for everyone! 


Black Hole said...

Seattle Public Schools have spent $42m in technology over the past several years.

IT services were cut, drastically, during the Great Recession. PTAs are funding computer support.

We will not be able to afford Common Core, Technology and continued technology costs.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of maintenance, we attended the open house at the Jane Addams building last night and couldn't help but notice a moldy musty smell in the auditorium. It makes you wonder what's causing the odor and if the district has made sure there are no leaks or active mold issues.

a parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, I will have some news on an issue at the JA building (but A Parent, not the one you cite).

Anonymous said...

Considering how our local economy has such an incredible basis in technology, particularly with software development, it's surprising (from the inside) how little technology there is in the schools. We constantly hear how the tech support staff has had their budgets/staffing slashed (sorry, no $$ #s I'm aware of) and we have dozens of donated computers because the Tech levies are inadequate. By no means do I buy every complaint from Microsoft about in-state education (in part a justification for foreign visas), but I don't see enough up to date and/or consistent software/computer technology access and training to prepare many of our students for these jobs.

It also seems a shame to me that a push for more computing technology would be for Common Core exams.

Surprised techie

Anonymous said...

Some schools have carts full of laptops and iPads, while others don't even have pencil sharpeners that sharpen pencils (they just grind them down to pointless nubs).

The disparities in this district are sickening. Why do some school sponsor schools in Africa when their peers across town have the need for the funds?

And BTW, who IS in charge around here. Certainly not Banda.

Sped Staffer

Jet City mom said...

As a longtime Summit parent, Ive never noticed a musty smell in the auditorium & I have a very sensitive nose.
Did the Jane Addams building ever get a new roof?
The Stranger also has a story on the Northwest Center eviction.

Anonymous said...

@ Jet City Mom

Yes, the Jane Addams building got a new roof several years ago, over the summer. I could smell it from my house.

I asked the JAMS Principal about the musty smell in the auditorium, and it will be looked into (there has been a work order submitted).

- North-end Mom