Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham proposes $31 million, five-year technology plan

Molly Beck:

All students in the Madison School District would have their own tablets or notebook computers by the 2018-19 school year under a five-year, $31 million plan proposed by Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.
If approved, the plan would increase the district’s current
$1.5 million annual technology budget to $4.2 million in the 2014-15 school year to start upgrading the district’s network infrastructure, upgrade or equip classrooms and libraries with new technology or computers, and provide notebook computers to all district teachers and administrators. Elementary teachers also would get tablet computers under the plan.
Costs to upgrade are projected to increase each of the five years of the plan for a total of $31 million spent in that time. Afterward, the annual budget for technology would be about $7 million per year going forward.
Madison School Board members, who formally received the plan at their meeting Monday, were mostly optimistic about the plan. Board member T.J. Mertz questioned whether the program needed to be as extensive as it’s proposed given what he said were other unmet needs in the district and given research that he called “universally disappointing” surrounding such initiatives.
Mertz said in an interview after Monday’s board meeting that he agrees with the majority of the investments in technology under the plan, “but then there’s a third or a quarter where I think it’s going overboard.”
As an example, Mertz said he questions whether every kindergarten student needs their own tablet computer.

Prior to spending any additional taxpayer funds on new initiatives, I suggest that the District consider (and address) the status of past expensive initiatives, including:
Infinite Campus: is it fully implemented? If not, why? Why continue to spend money on it?
Standards based report cards“.
Connected Math.
Small Learning Communities.
And of course, job number one, the District’s long term disastrous reading scores.
Madison already spends double the national average per student ($15k). Thinning out initiatives and refocusing current spending on reading would seem to be far more pressing than more hardware.

One thought on “Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham proposes $31 million, five-year technology plan”

  1. Sent to the Madison School Board:
    I read with much interest the proposal to implement more technology into our school district. I am thrilled to hear this but I have ONE huge problem……Staff training.
    When my family moved to Madison 14 years ago, I was shocked that the staff not only did not use email but voicemail was just implemented into the schools and the staff did not know how to use the phone voicemail, nor were they interested in using such a tool without proper training. At Crestwood Elementary as a PTO officer we heard from one staff that a digital camera would save money, time and would replace the request parents received at the beginning of the year for disposable camera’s. We held a fundraiser and raised $2000 toward a $1200 camera and flash. One teacher used it and the others said they had no idea how and kept requesting disposable cameras. The camera sat in the Library for several years unused.
    This is the first year in 7 years with my three at MMSD that all my one remaining child’s teachers are using infinite campus. (Memorial Student) When discussions of a parent portal program was discussed I was so excited the district selected a program (not the one I wanted, but yet moving forward). Sadly the training was “optional” and the use not mandatory. It took SEVEN years to make this something the staff actually used. At the time many outlying communities were using similar programs with great success but the part about it being optional for staff and optional training was never considered by those selecting a program. Then the new report cards for elementary and middle schools (the ever popular 1,2,3,4…..) grading for middle school arrived and made infinite campus completely useless. Staff had no idea how to use it for the new grading system since it was based on a 0 – 100 % grading system and their new grading system was based on 1, 2, 3, 4. Training was optional and very few staff took the training. I have no idea if the elementary or middle schools ever figured out how to use it as mine moved on after several years of frustration….poor program, poor implementation, poor training.
    I just want to say YAHOO, to upgrading technology. YAHOO to joining the digital world. But, the investment is only worth how much the staff is trained and prepared to use technology. I have an ipad, use it everyday. Love it….but without proper training, instruction, and enthusiasm, my ipad would be used for email, facebook and weather. The investment of taxpayers money is only worth the investment you place in training the staff, training on how to implement their standards into the technology and training that is REQUIRED. Otherwise don’t bother. I have read way to many stories, including the little town I grew up in Texas that bought ipad’s for all the students…..and the staff never really used in the classroom.
    Technology is only as good as the training you provide for your staff, and it can’t be option, non paid training. Spend plenty on mandatory training for a success story.

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