The Tahoma School District hosted an “Engage Tahoma” informational session to help build support for another technology levy that could go before voters on a future ballot.
The discussion is in response to a technology levy that failed in the February 2018 election with about 53 percent voting no. The levy was estimated to cost 39 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for the first year and generate $2.75 million each year to fund computers, communications network equipment, software and technology support staff.
After the tech levy failure, the district created a review committee to craft a reasonable levy that will provide students and faculty functional and useful technology, according to the district.
Kevin Patterson, director of communications for the district, said there are several vital programs that were cut because of the 2018 levy failure, including:
• Discovery Educations, a kindergarten to 12th grade streaming service.
• DreamBox, a kindergarten to 5th grade math support program.
• ReadyTest A-Z, a program used to help prepare students in grades three to five for state assessments.
• Reading A-Z, a program that provided teachers with tools to help improve student reading.
The district is holding informational meetings for parents, voters and students about what a proposed technology levy would be used for if it ran and passed during February 2020 election. At the first meeting April 30, Superintendent Tony Giurado said the importance of technology goes back to the roots of the district with “Future Ready” skills, plans and empowered learning.
“When they leave us we want them to have the academic foundation so they can follow whatever path they want to go. In order or us to be successful at implementing that for every student, for every classroom, everyday, we need to have a strong partnership with our schools, our families and our communities,” Giurado said at the meeting. “The only way we’re going to provide the very best experience for our students is if those three partnerships happen. Together, we can do amazing things for our students.”
The school district reports that students successfully use digital tools to support and demonstrate their Future Ready Skills. Digital tools can include but are not limited to updated computers, iPads and even fast Wi-Fi can make a world of difference in the learning capabilities of students, according to the district.
Kimberly Allison, instructional technology and Future Ready Skills coordinator, said the current age of computers at the school district range from two to five years old. Of the thousands of computers in the district, 43% of them are five years old while 27% are two years old. While the age of these computers might seem “young,” she said students are starting to see a significant difference in speed and functionality of computers they use.
According to Maple View Middle School student Gavin Bakeman, when he and other students go into one of their classes that is solely run around computers, students will fight over who gets the faster computers and who gets stuck with the slower, older computers.
“We have the slower computers and the faster computers. It becomes a fighting match for who gets the faster computers,” Bakeman said at the April 30 meeting. “It’s a really bad experience and it ends up becoming an issue and my teacher had to put his foot down and assign seats.”
Allison said a Rock Creek Elementary School teacher, Brandon Betlach, told her that iPads are an important aspect to teaching his kids.
In his classroom, Betlach uses what are called “Plickers cards,” an interactive assessment tool that helps teachers see who is learning and who isn’t. According to Allison, this is better than asking the class, “Does everyone understand?” Allison said Betlach often uses his personal phone to use Plicker in his class, and sometimes he’ll borrow an iPad. Because the district has a limited number of iPads for teachers and students, it is difficult to utilize tech programs such as Plicker in a classroom setting, she said.
Dawn Wakeley, executive director of teaching and learning, said the district uses the tax dollars from the community wisely. All the programs and tech tools that are bought with tax dollars are needed to prepare students for their future and real world experiences.
The goal, according to Wakeley, is for the review committee to have a completed tech plan by June.
The next public informational meeting about a possible technology levy is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 20 at the district’s Central Service Center, 25720 Maple Valley-Black Diamond Road SE, Maple Valley.