- February 29, 2016
EAST COUNTY — On Jan. 22, 13-year-old Logan Fiedler and his classmates at Carlos E. Haile Middle School raced into the computer lab to try out the school’s newest technology.
Fiedler, an eighth-grade student, noticed the new computers’ larger screens, non-sticky keyboards and faster Internet connection speeds instantly.
“These (computers) are so clean and fast,” Fiedler said, smiling. “The graphics and the programs are better; these are cool.”
The school’s new computers are one example of the $10 million the Manatee County School District allocated in fall 2014 for technology and staffing needs in county schools. The funding is meant to address the influx of students throughout the county — especially East County.
The district used $621,488 from its Digital Classroom Plan (DCP) grant, and $37,038 in capital funds to buy 6,000 Lenovo ThinkPad Twist devices that can convert from laptops to tablets, along with charging carts; and 1,069 Windows desktop computers. It disbursed the devices throughout county elementary, middle and high schools. But that’s not how all of the $10 million will be used.
“Money will go for additional staff,” Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Diana Green said. “With all the growth happening out east, more staff and technology is needed.”
As part of the district’s allotted dollars for East County, Braden River and Lakewood Ranch high schools received career advisers, deans, testing administrators and guidance clerks, along with more teachers.
The area’s growth spurt and the funding that followed are especially apparent at Lakewood Ranch High School, which has added 22 teachers to its staff since the previous school year.
The Ranch school now educates more than 2,000 students, which made it an obvious choice for a larger staff.
“High schools with more than 2,000 students definitely needed more support,” Green said. “With End of Course (EOC) exams and other high school tests coming up, it wasn’t acceptable to think guidance counselors could do all of that and handle the job of being a guidance counselor.”
Elementary schools also received additional Exceptional Student Education (ESE) staff members.
Teachers educate students with special learning circumstances, such as gifted children or students who are deaf, have Autism or other learning obstacles.
East County elementary schools also received additional student support specialists, computer lab managers and guidance clerks.
Bulking up technology and staff counts at area schools is part of the district’s 2015-2019 strategic plan. The district developed the plan based on input from teachers, district employees and parents.
The school district met with parents at local schools to determine what areas are important to parents.
Parents said new technology and recruiting capable employees were top priorities on their lists.
Additional teachers and newer technology align with two goals of the plan: talent management and technology and innovation.
For local students, faculty and parents, the additions are welcome improvements.
Prior to the recent installation of the computer lab’s new desktops, Haile Middle School hadn’t received new computers in more than six years, Assistant Principal Kate Collis said.
To Haile Middle Principal Sharon Scarbrough, capable teachers and new technology will help students prepare for the future.
“What’s happening is part of embracing technology,” Scarbrough said. “Computer-based learning is the way of the future, and we’re easing into it to make sure our students are prepared when they leave here.”