The common denominator of the vocal Darien parents at Tuesday night's special Board of Education meeting is that the proposed 2013-14 school budget must include technology funding in order to keep up with the rapid technological changes and to prepare for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, which will require total online testing by 2015.
"Technology is no longer simply a tool but an integral component of the learning that goes on each day," said Sharon Silsby, the PTO co-chairman.
Parents serving as the budget representatives of the schools shared their thoughts to a fairly crowded town hall auditorium. Each urged the board to not make cuts in various areas, but none were in opposition to the proposed $82.2 million budget, which is a 4.07 percent increase over the 2012-13 budget.
Implementation of the approved RC-15 technology plan accounts for $407,000 of the 2013-14 proposed budget. Of that, 79 percent will be used for updating and maintenance to existing infrastructures, with most being done to prepare for the Common Core State Standards, comply with the new state-mandated teacher evaluations, enhance student-centered instruction and advancing communication and collaboration, Vogel said.
The Common Core State Standards, which were adopted by 46 states, offer a new approach to teaching and a new way of test taking. Come 2015, all standardized tests will be administered online.
"The high school will need to rely on dependable library computers to ensure compliance with, and the ability to administer, these tests," said Brianna Schneider, a representative of the Darien High School Parents Association.
"Technology is an integral part of learning that goes on each day in our schools; it is embedded in our curricula and facilitates communication and collaboration across the district," Vogel said. "The need for and value of technology is beyond dispute."
Next year is the second year of the district's three-year Smart Board installation plan, said Julia Ford, the co-chairman of the Middlesex Middle School PTO and representative of Middlesex Middle School. During the 2013-14 school year, 25 more Smart Boards are set to be installed in regular class rooms and two to three installed in the special education classrooms.
"This budget request of $20,000 for Smart Boards is vitally important to the ongoing effort to keep special education classrooms as up-to-date as their regular education programs," said Anne Foster, the special education budget representative for the CDSP.
Ford also noted the need to improve the Mac lab and the mobile cart, noting that most of the computers that are used daily are more than five years old and showing signs of old age in expensive maintenance and difficulty installing modern software. The mobile carts are approximately 10 years old, Ford said.
"We all know how hard it is to install new software on an outdated computer," Ford said.
Technology updates have been on the back burner, said Schneider.
"Years ago, it was much easier," Schneider said. "You put up a chalkboard and it lasted for 30 years. We all know that is not how technology works. We need to maintain our infrastructure."
She fully supports the proposed $25,000 for technology in the library.
"Although we still think of the high school as new, the 51 computers in the library are already seven years old, far older than the technology most of us have in our hour," Schneider said. "Further, these computers are used every period of every day and often by multiple students in one period. They are getting used a lot."
When the computers were installed in the high school seven years ago, there were 250 less students using the computers, Schneider said.
"This equals a lot more people on the same amount of computers, computers that are very old and showing significant wear and tear," Schneider said.
Additionally, 50 news laptops are being requested to replace the current outdated desktops, as part of the Special Educations Teacher Computer replacement plan, according to Foster. The current desktops were "handed down" to the special education department five to six years ago, Foster added.
The new laptops will be more compatible with the new software with the recommended testing programs.
"Some of these programs have difficulty being run on our current desktops because of operating system upgrades," Foster said.
The Board of Education will vote on the Superintendent's proposed budget on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the regular Board of Education meeting.