By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Laptops, smart phones, iPads, apps, eBook readers, smart boards — the list goes on and on for technology used every day by students, families and businesses. Technology is an integral part of the community and allows individuals to stay connected with the world.
Norman Public Schools has recognized the importance of keeping its technology up to date, and in the 2014 bond issue, 18 percent of bond funding has been dedicated to integrating technology into the classroom.
The $126 million, five-year bond issue will be voted on Feb. 11 in two proposals. This bond issue is the largest ever proposed in the school district’s history.
Voters will be asked to approve one proposal representing $122.5 million for renovations, safety and security, technology, athletics and annual expenditure projects, as well as a separate $3.5 million proposal for transportation.
State law requires transportation be a separate proposal in school bond elections.
The $126 million bond issue is not expected to raise or lower taxes because other bonds will have been paid off by the time the new bond would hit the tax rolls.
Kathryn Lewis, director of media and technology, said the previous 2009 bond issue focused on putting technology in teachers’ hands, so teachers could have more mobility in their classrooms and use devices such as clicker technology, mobis and laptops. Now, the 2014 bond issue would place technology in students’ hands.
“We hope that by giving students technology, this will foster innovation and creativity,” Lewis said.
To determine what technology needs would need to be met, Lewis said a sub-committee was formed that included librarians, principles, curriculum staff and administration.
For several years, the sub-committee looked at survey information from parents, teachers, students and administration, as well as school districts inside and outside Oklahoma that had placed technology in students’ hands and examined research, best practices and forecast reports that look at where technology is going in the future.
Peter Liesenfeld, Longfellow Middle School principal whose school obtained 1:1 technology with a grant in 2010, said that by placing technology in students’s hands, they will be able to learn how to navigate their time inside and outside of the classroom.
“They’ll learn when it is appropriate to listen and when they can just chill,” Liesenfeld said. “That’s a part of life, knowing how to adapt. We’ve seen the students adapt well here.”
Other benefits NPS hopes to see with technology additions and upgrades include collaboration between classrooms and schools, enhancing student research skills, teaching students to distinguish between good and bad online sources and making student-appropriate online users.
“Our students will become life-long learners and citizens fluent with technology,” Lewis said.
Additionally, Liesenfeld said the bond issue would serve every student at every school and bolster the equitable educational approach Norman Public Schools strive for.
Shirley Simmons, assistant superintendent of educational services, said the particular devices to be purchased with the bond issue had not been finalized, but when devices and software are selected, they may be different from grade level to grade level to meet every grades’ needs.
“Whatever devices are selected by the district, they will be developmentally appropriate for each grade level,” Simmons said.
Simmons also said with the bond issue, the district plans to provide teachers with professional development to adjust to students having access to new technology in the classroom.
NPS Board of Education member Cindy Nashert said she believed NPS was setting the bar on academics and new technology opportunities could only add to that.
“Technology has definitely come a long way since I was in school. Children at very early ages are utilizing technology to learn. It’s amazing to see what Norman Public Schools and other school districts are doing with technology and the positive results that are coming from the use of computers and laptops,” Nashert said. “The opportunities that technology avails our students today appears to be endless.
“Students appear to be motivated to learn more so when using technology. There are wonderful software programs to keep them motivated throughout the learning process. I truly believe that the best teaching tool will always be the interaction with a student and their teacher, but technology is a great resource for a student to excel on an individual basis.”
The bond issue represents the sum of the district’s bonding capacity for five years. The NPS school district has utilized a revenue bond structure so it will be able to have immediate access to funds it would have had access to over five years and use them to make needed capital investments districtwide in a shorter period of time.
The law requires all bond issue projects to be completed within three years of the start date.
In 2009, NPS passed a similar bond issue for $109 million. The 2009 bond issue focused on renovations of elementary and middle schools, and Ronald Reagan Elementary was built. All of the 2009 bond issue projects were completed on time.
The projects included in the 2014 bond issue were identified in an objective process that drew from an independent Norman Demographic Study in 2012 and independent Facility Plan studies conducted in 2007 and 2013.
The 2014 bond issue would be used to purchase new technology for every school site, upgrade the district’s network and technological infrastructure and maintain and replace, as needed, the district’s current technology.
To vote in favor of the bond issue, early in-person voting will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 6 and Feb. 7 at the Cleveland County Election Board. Polls will open at 7 a.m. Feb. 11 and close at 7 p.m.
Registration to vote closed last Friday, 24 days before the election, as required by law. Sample ballots are available at the Cleveland County Election Board website.
According to officials at the Cleveland County Election Board, the bond issue requires a super majority, or more than 60 percent of the vote, to pass.
The Cleveland County Election Board is at 641 E. Robinson St., Suite 200. For more information, call 366-0210 or visit clevelandcountyelectionboard.com.
For more information, videos, brochures and the Superintendent’s PowerPoint about the bond issue, visit http://norman.k12.ok.us/
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