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TUSD considers spending $4 million on tech upgrades
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The Turlock Unified School District has a plan to upgrade all teacher computers and network connections, and to install interactive whiteboards and other technology equipment in an effort to bring all classrooms to a 21st century standard. That plan was met with both support and fervent opposition at Tuesday’s board of trustees meeting. 

If the Multi-Year 21st Century Classroom Technology Project is enacted, the district will spend $4.4 million to replace over 1,000 computers in a three phase, three year period.

“The goal of the Turlock Unified School District Technology Plan is to create an equitable learning experience for all students and to provide state of the art technology to teachers, to enhance the delivery of effective instruction, and to increase student achievement,” said TUSD Supervisor of Technology and Data Systems Judi Green during her presentation Tuesday night.

The plan would be the first district-wide effort in regards to technology.

“Schools for their most part buy their own supplies out of their funds.  They replace their own computers and interactive boards out of funds that they get at the school.  This proposed project will be a change to what is currently going on in schools, and will take that burden off the schools, then they can use that money they need at their site,” said Turlock Unified School District Superintendent Sonny De Marto.

Da Marto cited the upcoming Smarter Balance Assessment, which is coming through the state and requires all students to take assessments electronically, as another reason the technology project is needed now.

The sheer cost of the project had at least one trustee up in arms after Green’s presentation Tuesday night. 

“Why are we even discussing this project if we are in an ongoing situation with the teachers?” asked Trustee Grady Welch.  “I want to focus on settling with the union and come into an agreement before talking about spending millions of dollars on another project.”  

Other board members dismissed Welch’s concerns and advocated that the project be set in motion.

“Not moving forward with this program would be a disservice to the children,” said Trustee Tami Muniz.  “We need to address this situation as soon as possible and start figuring out how to fund it.”

Other support for the project was also voiced at Tuesday’s board meeting.

“Teachers who embrace the tool of teaching will be more successful with their students,” said Education Foundation President Barney Gordon.  “Teachers need to be trained and developed to use the technology that will be presented to the students because many teachers do not know how to use them.”

In the end, the board members decided they needed more information on the actual needs of each school site before approving such a large expenditure.

“If we could get a general idea on what each school spends on technology before we make a decision and decide how we want to move forward with this project.  I don’t feel comfortable using the $5 million dollars that we have on reserve right now but we need to start addressing this path,” said Trustee Frank Lima.

The Multi-Year 21st Century Classroom Technology Project will be discussed in greater detail at the October TUSD board meeting.