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LETTER: School committee didn’t include community, teachers in iPad debate

To the Editor:

Over the last couple of months we have seen many new ideas proposed by the Auburn School Department. These ideas are aimed at improving student achievement and alleviating the dropout crisis.

However, a common theme has emerged during the school committee meetings and subsequent discussions: a complete lack of collaboration and openness with the community and teachers of Auburn.

According to the school committee’s policies (located on their website), their mission is to “facilitate the development of policies in collaboration with faculty and community.” This includes educators, parents, citizens and children of Auburn.

The committee hastily decided to buy and implement iPads for kindergarten classrooms without seeking collaboration from faculty or community members. Requests from local medical experts, parents and educators to be part of this process have been overlooked by the committee.

In the school committee’s iPad update on June 15, a list of “developing partners” for the initiative was given. Parents and community members were not included in this list. One medical professional was included (an occupational therapist employed by the Auburn School Department), but most “partners” were from large groups with corporate interests in technology. Community collaboration was glaringly absent from the list.

The burden to implement these ideas falls on the teachers themselves. Teachers are being relied on to fine tune the curriculum and use the technology in their classrooms. They are provided very little opportunity to share their thoughts regarding these initiatives. In recent meetings, the technology leaders have presented their own interpretations of iPads in the classroom, but teachers have not been given the opportunity to share their observations directly with the committee.

One school committee member has stood out in his effort to understand the iPads and the program. Francois Bussiere spent time investigating the iPad at a local store soon after the initiative was approved. More recently, he traveled to one of the pilot classrooms to interact with and observe the students using the technology. All school school committee members should follow Mr. Bussiere’s lead and visit classrooms on a regular basis, iPads or no iPads.

However, another school committee member’s recent comments are more typical of the committee’s approach. On an April 27 board meeting, Tom Kendall stated, “But our focus goes beyond the local need because there’s a crying need out there to understand how to use technology.” Together, with the lack of encouragement of community involvement, this paints a troubling picture of the committee’s priorities.

The school committee member should uphold their mission to involve the community and encourage input from educators. Classroom teachers can often provide a perspective that is not readily apparent to someone outside of that school building. Parents and community members are also an invaluable source of innovative ideas to improve student achievement.

Auburn needs a school committee that will focus on the local need, thoroughly involve classroom teachers in decision making and welcome community engagement. School committees should be a model of community involvement to local children.

We are calling on Auburn citizens to consider running for the school committee. Our local children and their future need to be our primary focus. We need new members that will be committed to the local community—not just dominating headlines with poorly planned initiatives.

Tracey Levesque

and Stella Gammaitoni

Auburn Citizens for Responsible Education

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