GROTON -- In a series of votes taken at a meeting on March 13, members of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee confirmed their support of an article to be placed on the Town Meeting warrant seeking funds to pay for needed upgrades in classroom technology.
As written, the article will seek a total appropriation of $562,055 portions of which will be divided between Groton and Dunstable.
Of the total being sought, $164,225 will be used to bolster the district's technology infrastructure and $397,830 for equipment intended for classroom use.
According to the district's administration, technology currently in use in the district is haphazard in terms of equipment as well as in its application with no infrastructure to support it. If the funds requested in the article were to be approved, a start could be made to rectify that situation.
In particular, the money raised would be applied toward the purchase of basic items including carts that would enable transportation of 30 laptop computers to different classrooms, projectors and cameras enabling students to see their work on an overhead screen, individual laptop computers for teachers, installation of wireless internet access in all school buildings, and air conditioning units to keep equipment lockers cool.
"This is something that the committee wants to move forward with," said School Committee chairman Allison Manugian of the spending article.
Voting on the article was done in three motions:
-- A vote to adopt the technology improvement plan which the $562,055 is intended to support.
-- A vote requesting that Groton raise its share of the total which committee member James Frey said could be done within the town's levy limit.
-- A vote requesting that Dunstable raise its share of the total which will have to be done by debt exclusion due to the town's having no excess capacity within its own levy limit.
With passage of the three motions, the article will next proceed to the two towns' fiscal managers for review, approval, and inclusion on their respective warrants.
Also at the same meeting, Frey noted that the School Committee had recently made its final vote on the district's fiscal 2014 budget which fixed it at a total of $35,200,000 an 0.8 percent increase over fiscal 2013.
That figure will also be passed along to Groton and Dunstable for review.
At the March 13 meeting, committee members also heard from superintendent Anthony Bent and accountability director Kerry Clery about their meeting with fourth graders to discuss the district's new grading policy.
At issue was a change in the way the district intends to grade elementary school students ending the familiar A, B, C system of report card grading in which the average of how students' performed in numeric based testing is determined.
Instead, a new system using the letters M, P, and I will be used.
The new lettering, Meets the standard, Progressing toward the standard, and Making insufficient progress toward the standard, will focus instead on students' "skills, progress, and capability levels."
Scoring on a scale of 0 to 100 upon which the A, B, C, system had traditionally been based was determined to be too literal, not allowing room for teachers to detail the full range of a student's progress.
Geared to the state's common core standards for education which the district has already adopted, the new report cards will be issued only three times a year and measure "how well a student is doing in relation to the grade level standards rather than the work of other students."
Well, that did not sit well with at least one student, Griffin Elliot, who duly wrote a letter to the administration expressing his concerns.
As a result, Bent and Clery met with Elliot and the rest of his class to discuss the new grading system and were impressed with the seriousness the students' showed toward the subject.
"We were so incredibly impressed with how articulate they were," said Clery of fourth graders.
Bent agreed, calling the students "smart and thoughtful" and agreed that it was "wonderful" to see grade schoolers take such an interest in a subject that after all, would directly effect them.
While not saying if the students convinced them to drop the new grading system, Clery said their feedback would be included when the official policy was drafted.