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TMCNet:  Winnetka District 36 aiming for laptops or iPads for every student

[November 16, 2012]

Winnetka District 36 aiming for laptops or iPads for every student

Nov 16, 2012 (Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Winnetka District 36 school board members are preparing to approve an ambitious five-year strategic plan that includes, among other goals, a one-to-one laptop or iPad program for students.


The ambitious plan, more than a year in the making and still in draft form, includes 49 goals split between five "pillars" which focus staff efforts: Communication; curriculum, instruction and assessment; metrics and reporting; operations; and technology.

"It's a lofty plan," acknowledged Superintendent Thomas Hagerman, noting that some of the goals are already underway and making progress toward completion.

Most of the goals are targeted for completion or implementation in the first three years, "so we can have an opportunity to reflect and refine and make changes as we need to in the years beyond that," Hagerman said.

The one-to-one device program would place a laptop or iPad in every student's hands in order to integrate technology through every discipline.

"We're trying to embed and integrate technology into everything," Hagerman said, noting that the initiative also means the district must focus on teacher training.

"We have a range of ability and comfort level right now that we have to build and capitalize on to make that goal accomplished," he said.

Managing the district's finances is a top priority, including lowering its cost-per-pupil spending and bringing other cost increases in line with consumer price index increases, Hagerman noted. A high priority has been placed on providing consistency and alignment of curriculum across the district's schools, he said.

The planning process started a year ago, with 28 focus groups for teachers, administrators and community members to brainstorm ideas and set priorities. The information gathered was used to craft a more informed survey of students, parents and faculty, Hagerman said.

The survey data was culled together to form the draft plan that school board members are expected to approve in December.

There were a few surprises, Hagerman said. One perennially popular concept -- from his perspective -- is all-day kindergarten. But the topic never rose to the top during the focus groups and surveys, he said.

Another area was satisfaction levels.

"I came in at a time when the district was a little bit tumultuous," said Hagerman, who was hired in 2011 with a top priority of completing the strategic planning process -- after a previous attempt disintegrated among community dissension. "The overall satisfaction rates were a little bit higher than I was expecting." One top priority in the plan was something administrators didn't foresee, and bubbled to the top from the survey of students -- creating a social and emotional program that has a continuous look, feel and vocabulary across grade levels.

"That's something we hadn't really been thinking about but we're pretty excited that's going to be" including it in the plan, Hagerman said.

In other courses, like writing, students build on what they've learned in previous years in a deliberate and articulated path, he said. A similar philosophy will be created around the district's social and emotional program, which deals with issues as wide-ranging as anti-bullying lessons or democracy, he said.

"This was an incredibly grassroots approach" Hagerman said. "It's going to be a lot to deliver, but it's truly a community effort." jhuston@tribune.com ___ (c)2012 the Chicago Tribune Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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