*please read to the bottom to be well-informed!
Fantasy baskets sales have taken place every year at Trafalgar. This year it is not in connection with an event and has the specific purpose of raising money for technology.
Why is technology a focus right now?
The short answer?
Trafalgar is one of the schools with the lowest ratio of devices to students in the ENTIRE VSB. Our ratio is 6:1 where many schools are 2:1 (the average is 4:1 and that is considered too low). This is especially troubling when you factor in the 50% of our devices are operating poorly. So not only is our ratio low but also the computers factored into that number do not function properly.
We have sent many Sunday email blasts regarding technology and discussed it at most PAC meetings this year (including one specifically focused on Tech in December) so we are hoping parents are informed on THE WHY. We have had several questions lately however so we thought it might be best to send an email with more specifics so our community is even better informed.
- We knew from teacher feedback coming into this school year that there were many frustrations surrounding technology at Trafalgar. Mme. Lavoie, Hanif Virani, Alison Scarlett and I met with Audrey Van Alstyne District Principal for Learning Technologies for the VSB to express our concerns as well as get recommendations. The teachers and administration had reported continual Wifi problems and this was a big concern for us. She recommended Cloudbooks as replacement devices for our Computer Lab. Audrey is the one who informed us that we are one of the schools with the least amount of devices in the district.
- We held a Tech meeting with teachers, parent tech committee and administration to discuss what teachers wanted, what works best in the classroom, Wifi issues, etc. Two teachers were given Cloudbooks to test by the VSB. The feedback was not good.
- We started researching other devices. One of the biggest roadblocks is that we have to choose devices that the VSB tech team will support. If we chose Chromebooks, for example, we are on our own if we need any kind of support. They were still suggesting Cloudbooks.
- In December, we had a PAC meeting with a specific focus on technology. Parents discussed device options, solutions to the Wifi issues and which areas to tackle first for technology. Eve MacGregor, a Grade 3 parent, and Mr. Rupert presented the results from the detailed Technology inventory they conducted for our school. This report was quite eye-opening for us as our technology situation was much worse than we originally thought. 50% of our devices were old and working poorly!! 77% of the desktops were working poorly or not at all (See full report attached). The parent community decided at this meeting that our first area of focus for technology would be replacing the ailing desktops in the Computer Lab and Library. There was a preliminary vote to use the $20,000 GIC we have saved to replace these computers.Detailed inventory here
- Hanif contacted the VSB Tech department (once again) regarding our Wifi issues. The response came at the end of second term and we are happy to report that these issues have now been fixed.
- The VSB now acknowledges that Cloudbooks are not a good option (and we are very happy to followed our gut and didn’t make a hasty purchase in October!).
- I contacted our network of approximately 25 West Side PAC chairs to inquire about their recent tech purchases. None could offer a suggestion that they really loved. Many bought refurbished and were quite disappointed. Some leased computers through the VSB but that wasn’t much cheaper than retail and they were also refurbished. There is also a shortage for leasing right now so not a great option. Most have done massive tech fundraising (in addition to Direct Appeal) or were about to do some next year. All wanted me to report our purchase decision to them given that our school has done so much research and has been able to meet with Audrey from the VSB twice, which I believe is only the result of Mme. Lavoie having such a great working relationship with her.
- The research and meetings continued into last week with the parents, teachers, and Audrey from the VSB. We have narrowed our choice down to 2 devices that are VSB supported. The VSB has loaned us 7 devices and several Trafalgar teachers on the Tech committee will spend the next 3 weeks testing these devices.
- We are hoping to come to a decision in time for the final PAC meeting on June 5th. It is our wish to pass the motion to spend, order, and have the devices ready for the first day of school in September but if there are any questions still outstanding, we will hold off. This is not a decision we take lightly. It is a huge spend and thus we thank you all for your patience throughout the year while we researched extensively.
Currently, we have 37 computers in our computer lab and 9 in our library. Those computers are 7-8 years old and basically function very little at this point. They take 20-30 minutes to start up and we are not able to add anything new to those devices. They cause a lot of frustration to staff and students. Therefore, we would like to purchase a full cart of laptops (30) and also some for the library (the wish is 15 but we will likely start with 5 and build over time).
We are extremely fortunate in that the past PACs put $20,000 into a GIC over the past 3 years. Unlike most other schools in the VSB, we do not need to do a massive fundraiser to carry out Step 1 should the PAC vote to use this money. The baskets will likely be it for fundraising for this year.
Please note however, that this purchase will still leave us with a 6:1 ratio. The good news is that most of those devices will actually function. At some point in the near future, there will have to be a Step 2 which will be replacing the 4 year-old laptop cart. Those laptops are refurbished laptops and, at any given point, 20% of them aren’t working. We don’t have a full class set for the students to use which is very frustrating for staff and students.
We would like to emphasize that although technology is at the forefront of discussion right now, the executive is and has always been committed to funding well-rounded programming for our students including the Arts, Athletics, Academics, etc throughout all of the grades. A balanced budget.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org should you have any questions.
Your PAC executive and parent Tech committee