HOLDEN, Mass. — While hope for a January Special Town Meeting was dashed following the Wachusett Regional School District's discussions with the member towns on the 21st Century Skills Initiative, the goal of maximizing student access to internet-ready devices in a wireless environment is still strong, and the school department has been working to build a five-year comprehensive plan for the technology acquisition.
"It is clear from our meeting with the Regional Selecboard that there is little interest in a January Town Meeting on the part of the respective boards," said Superintendent Thomas Pandiscio in his report to the school commitee Tuesday night.
Yet Pandiscio added that "The lack of support for the January Town Meetings should not be interepreted as a lack of support for the initiative, however. Amidst some of the criticism, there were clear signs of support."
For instance, in Holden, selectmen voted 4-1 to oppose holding the Special Town Meeting in January, but some members still expressed an interest in the idea, and encouraged the superintendent to come back with a more clear and far-reaching plan.
"Big picture-wise, one of the things we heard loud and clear from the selectmen — and I think it was on-point and I took it very seriously — was that they are looking for a plan," said Pandiscio.
In response, the department is "in the process of developing a five year budget plan which would show our budget using various assumptions, which would show five years of expenditure in our district," he continued. "We'll plug into that five years of capital acquisition, including five years of technology acqusitiion."
The administration hopes to have the plan ready for the school committee's consideration by the end of January.
In the meantime, the superintendent said the district would have to start doing things differently in preparation for the push toward digital technology.
"We need to be thinking about this a digital conversion as opposed to a technology issue," said Pandiscio. "We're living in a society where we're converting from print media to digital media, and we need to start changing our behavior to make that conversion."
In the classroom, Pandiscio said teachers needed to begin limiting the amount of paper that is given to their students, and the superinetndent recalled a conversation he had with his daughter.
"I asked my daughter the other day, how many of your teachers have websites?,
'All of them,' she said.
'How many of your teachers put their assignments on the wesbites?'
'All of them.'
"How many of your teachers give you that same assignment with a peice of paper?'
'All of the," she answered.
The superintendent expressed that having these websites already in place was an opportunity for the schools to use less paper.
"We spend $170,000 a year copying peices of paper," said Pandiscio, adding that even in the adminstration's office they are working on eliminating paper.
"From a role model point of view, we're killing more trees than anybody by shipping out reports," he added.
The school committee also made reference to the iPad pilot program that would be launching at Sherwood Middle School in Shrewsbury this month. A small distribution of 53 devices will be in the hands of students to use for home and classroom use. The project is an effort to investigate the initiative before potentially rolling it out as a one-to-one program across the district.
"There are districts across the country that are doing wonderful things with technology," said Pandiscio. "It's not even an accomplishment, it's the world we live in. It's almost like saying we have a great music program — are we proud of it? Yeah, but we're expected to have a great music program, we're expected to have a great art program. We're exprected to be able to harness the tools of our culture to teach our young. That's our job."