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PILOT PROGRAM IN TECHNOLOGY CALLED SUCCESS

The pilot technology program in 10 Orchard Park School District classrooms is a success and should be continued and expanded, the School Board was told Monday night.

"I think we've shown what we wanted to show with the pilot. We've shown what the teacher could do. We've shown what the students could do," said Trustee Richard Marcklinger, who is chairman of the Technology Committee.

The pilot program was authorized last May and added computer labs at the middle school and high school, a distance learning lab at the high school and multiple computers in 10 classrooms in kindergarten through sixth grades.

"We weren't sure it was going to be that great of an advantage, but it turned out to be a tremendous advantage," Marcklinger said. "We had computer teachers who had to have different plans for the classes that came in from the pilots, because they (the classes) were advanced over the ones who weren't."

The pilot teachers showed the board what their students have done this year with the computers. Sixth grade teacher Cyndy Levy said students using the computers are practicing skills they are required to know, such as evaluating web sites and making judgments about what information is appropriate.

"Computers are no longer nice to have. The skills required for their use are skills all students need to have if they are expected to meet the New York State standards," she said.

Catherine Marriott, technology and library services coordinator for the district, said the pilot program indicates four students per computer is optimum. She told the board the pilot program should be expanded across all kindergarten through sixth grades as fast as fiscally possible.

Marcklinger said he would work to get the full board some up-to-date cost estimates. An earlier estimate said it would cost about $375,000 to extend the pilot program.

The board also discussed adding bond propositions for technology and renovation projects to the May 19 budget referendum.

The board had been planning to hold a vote on the estimated $2.3 million technology project covering long-range needs July 2. By holding the vote then, the district could recover 10 percent more in state aid.

But there is a move afoot in the State Legislature to allow districts to conduct those votes on May 19 with their budget votes and still pick up the extra aid, officials said.

Trustees were split on whether the two items should be voted on the same day. Many did not want to make a decision by Wednesday, which is the deadline for getting the proposals on the May ballot. Some said they weren't comfortable setting up a $2.5 million bond for renovations without more discussion.

Trustees are planning a special session at 7 p.m. Wednesday to examine the $51.3 million budget proposal. The budget requests would increase taxes $1.51 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, but that number is likely to change.

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