Goal Is To Provide
BY SARAH GREGORY
Providing new, up-to-date computer technology to transform every class in the six Greeneville City schools into a 21st century classroom is an expensive undertaking, but the Greeneville City Schools (GCS) Education Foundation is taking on that challenge.
The Foundation announced the plans Wednesday at the formal launch of its new "Reach4IT" initiative. The event was held at Greeneville High School.
The goal of Reach4IT: to provide the needed classroom technology by raising $750,000 during the next four years.
One-hundred percent of funds raised through the Reach4IT initiative will be used to purchase notebook computers, laptop computers, and computer tablets for both students and teachers, Foundation leaders said.
The fundraising drive will rely on community support, it was explained.
At Wednesday's event, more than 40 community, business, and industry leaders, Greeneville City Schools friends and alumni, and other GCS Education Foundation supporters gathered to hear about the drive.
After the announcement, the participants rotated through three classrooms at GHS to see demonstrations of how students currently use technology every day.
The GCS Education Foundation hopes to gain the support not only of the individuals present Wednesday but also of other local businesses, industries, corporate sponsors, grant-making entities, and grassroots members of the community.
Established in 1996 by a group of local private citizens, the Education Foundation is a non-profit organization which states that it strives to "go beyond the basics" that government funding already provides to local public schools.
'BACKBONE' IN PLACE
GCS Education Foundation Trustee Bob Leonard told those present Wednesday that groundwork to support the Reach4ITgoal has already been laid by the school system itself.
"Greeneville City Schools has improved their technology infrastructure through internal funding and state grants. The backbone of the system is in place," Leonard said.
"The school system has provided the technology for the educators and administration," he continued.
"Over the years, the system has been able to provide technological tools to the students, but these tools are aging, and there are simply not enough to go around."
It's time, Leonard said, to provide the tools students need for success, and Reach4IT can make it happen.
Leonard announced that his family and their related businesses -- LMR Plastics, BTL Industries, and SouthEast Crate Services -- have pledged commitments to the Education Foundation initiative.
STARTING WITH SUPPORT
Thanks to investments made by the Greeneville Board of Education, the foundation says, the necessary computer networking and other technological infrastructure to support the actual in-classroom devices is already in place.
In addition, the Greeneville City School System itself has committed $100,000 toward the Reach4IT goal.
Those funds have already been used for new devices for Greeneville Middle School (GMS) and Greeneville High School (GHS).
The Greeneville Schools In Action (GSIA) parent organization has also pledged to support Reach4IT.
A portion of GSIA's annual fundraising proceeds during the next four years will be provided until the campaign reaches its goal, it was announced Wednesday.
TO BUY 2,050 DEVICES
Once the $750,000 goal is met, the GCS Education Foundation will be able to provide enough electronic devices to serve students in every GCS classroom, officials said.
It was explained that the initiative is not a one-to-one plan to put a device in the hands of every student. Instead, Reach4IT focuses on classroom -based sets of needed computer technology.
Information provided by the GCS Education Foundation outlines the specific equipment the group plans to purchase with funds raised.
Current plans call for the purchase of:
* 750 lightweight Lenovo ThinkPad notebook computers for younger elementary students;
* 700 Dell Latitude Laptops that have larger screens and keyboards for middle and high school students;
* and a total of 600 Apple iPads -- 300 for elementary schools, and 300 for GMS and GHS.
The devices selected, the foundation says, will best suit the needs of students.
As money becomes available, it was explained, devices will be purchased and put into service in the schools.
However, should technology change significantly while the four-year Reach4IT initiative is underway, the school system plans to update what equipment purchases will be made.
BRING YOUR OWN DEVICE
Reach4IT is designed to supplement an existing technology program in the Greeneville City Schools called "Bring Your Own Device," or BYOD.
BYOD began as a way to transform students' "abuse" of mobile phones and other such devices into learning opportunities.
The initiative allows students to use their own devices in a controlled way in GMS and GHS and connect to GCS' network.
The initiative is popular with students, and in the first seven days of this school year alone, the school system says, more than 1,200 personal devices used the school system's network.
The school system plans to implement BYOD in the elementary schools in the future, as data has shown that more than 98 percent of all GCS students own a mobile phone.
Reach4IT will help "bridge the gap" for students who are not able to purchase the devices that are needed, Leonard said.
21ST CENTURY CLASSES
The "bottom line," according to the GCS Education Foundation, is that a lack of electronic access equals lost opportunities.
Allison Adams, executive director of the GCS Education Foundation, said that "The 21st century classroom is one that is undergoing a rapid transformation into a highly flexible, configurable, and collaborative learning environment."
GCS Director of Schools Dr. Linda Stroud agrees that technology plays a critical role in preparing students for future learning in college or in their careers.
"Technology devices as educational tools are as critical today as paper, pencils, and encyclopedias have been in the past.
"Our students simply cannot succeed in the present or future worlds of education and work without them," Stroud was quoted saying in GCS Education Foundation materials.
Reach4IT is not just about technology, however, Stroud said.
"It's about relationships -- all of us in this community supporting each other, the education of our children, our school system, our nation, our parents, our businesses, our industries.
"We're all in this together. There is no 'them' -- it's just 'us,'" Stroud said, urging those in attendance to support the initiative.
"It really is our time to step up," she said.
Two Greeneville City Schools students who spoke at the launch event Wednesday agreed that the classroom technology the Education Foundation wants to provide is critical.
During the Reach4IT launch, guests heard from GHS students Carson Burke and Matthew Patterson -- who are also paid employees of Greeneville City Schools, working as student technicians in the IT department.
Assistant Director of Schools Beverly Miller joked when introducing the students that people often ask her what she does when 15- or 16-year-old students know more about computer technology than she does.
"I hire them," she laughed, explaining that, as student technicians, Burke and Patterson help the system carry out a rigorous maintenance plan to keep existing computers and other equipment in service as long as possible.
In brief comments, however, Burke and Patterson said they wanted to speak as students and not as student computer technicians.
"Education is technology these days," Burke said. "It's just a necessity."
Burke, who also serves as student representative for GHS on the Greeneville City Board of Education, said his peers often ask when the school will be able to provide new devices, such as iPads in particular.
"We're eager -- we want to use it," Burke said. "Technology just clicks. It's what my generation is. We're all about technology."
Patterson agreed, and told the group that being able to use technology during his time in Greeneville schools has given him an advantage over some other students in Walters State Community College classes that he also takes.
"It's just very important that we get taught here how to use this, and that we get exposed to it here before we move on out of high school and into everyday life and into college," Patterson said.
HOW TO CONTRIBUTE
Anyone can make a tax-deductible donation to the Reach4IT campaign.
The GCS Education Foundation website at http://www.gcseducationfoundation.net has a link where donations can be made through PayPal via credit card or bank draft.
Contribution pledge cards may also be downloaded from the foundation's website.
Pledges can be made on an annual, quarterly, or monthly basis. Completed pledge cards should be returned to GCS Education Foundation Reach4IT, P.O. Box 1420, Greeneville, TN 37744.
For more information, contact the GCS Education Foundation by email to (firstname.lastname@example.org)