Emery School District Pursues 5-Year Technology Plan

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Emery School District Press Release

HUNTINGTON: The Emery School District is rolling out a new website for the district office and each of its 10 schools at www.emeryschools.org, which will be fully operational by the start of the new school year. The new resource for use by all district stakeholders is part of a larger progressive philosophy that includes a comprehensive upgrade in technology and capacity which will provide equal opportunity to all students in all schools.

Larry W. Davis, superintendent, said of the new website, “Our district is pleased to offer this valuable service as a way to provide timely information to stakeholders about our school district and our schools. A lot of hard-working people contributed to the upgrade which is just one component of many that we are working on to advance technology in our district.” The superintendent encourages use of the website by the public throughout the school year.

In rolling out the new website, supervisor of the District Information Technology Department, Doug Johnson, has charged school administrators with the task of keeping their school websites up-to-date and accurate. Old files have been purged, and school webmasters are now transferring new files to the new sites. Johnson has further stressed the importance of keeping the school calendar current so that the websites can become the go-to resource for parents, students and others for school events and activities.

Going into the 2016-17 school year, the Emery Board of Education approved the creation of the Information Technology Department which over the last 12 months has been very active in upgrading and servicing tech systems throughout the district. By the start of the new school year, each of the district’s 10 schools will have improved internet and WiFi capacity and upgraded infrastructures. Progress has also been made toward installation of new security and telecommunications systems, and the Little Theater in the Spartan Center at Emery High School has been established as a Professional Development Center with broadcast and Interactive Video Conferencing (IVC) capabilities. In addition, the Emery School District and all of its schools have now adopted the new websites which are less expensive and more efficient than those used in the past. Currently, the department, with input from the committee, is updating computer-use and other technology policies.

Establishment of the IT Department, at least in part, was precipitated by the district’s efforts to acquire funding through the Utah State Board of Education’s Teaching and Learning Grant, a program funded by the Utah State Legislature in 2016. The grant application necessitated the establishment of a Technology Team and a Technology Committee to develop a 3-year plan and to complete the extensive application documents. While the team consisted of district office and IT personnel, the committee is much broader and includes district administrators, principals, teachers, support personnel, parents, and a school board member.

In expressing his appreciation to all those who have helped advance the district technology philosophy, Johnson said, “We have accomplished more than I ever thought we could in such a short amount of time. I believe that communication and empowering all stakeholders has led to getting this department on the right track and will help all of our students be more successful.”

Carli O’Neil, a teacher at Cleveland Elementary and a committee member, said, “Technology is a huge part of our world and as a district we recognize that and are working to utilize all of the ways technology can increase learning.” She said that the committee has “specific goals and many professional educators working to reach those goals. Having all types of professionals working and discussing our plan is going to help us become successful as a whole district.”

According to Superintendent Davis, “The Technology Team and the Technology Committee have come together to provide a significant service to our school district. Since last summer, these groups have met regularly, shared their ideas, brought in ideas from other stakeholders, and have ultimately shaped the future of technology for our children in very meaningful ways.”

Through the efforts of these working groups, the Emery County School District Teaching and Learning Grant Application was approved by the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) and activated for fiscal year 2018, adding nearly $70,000 toward advancing technology programs. However, the committee wasn’t created just for the purpose of completing the grant application; it was created as a long-term advisory group charged with the ongoing upgrade and facilitation of the district’s technology-related systems and programs.

Regarding his experiences with the Technology Committee, Principal John Hughes of Cottonwood Elementary, said, “When I look back over all that has happened within our district since the pursuit of this grant, I am amazed at the changes that have come as a result. The biggest change that I have noticed is the unified direction in which the district is now moving. It feels like we are now all rowing to the same destination in tandem. From PLCs to professional development, great changes are happening, and it is going to boost student achievement in Emery District.”

Part of the grant application included a thorough survey of the district’s technology inventory to determine which schools were on the high end or the low end of available resources and to identify duplication and nonuse. Not only did the survey results lead to service and installation priorities, they also led to the committee’s decision to establish 5-year technology plans for every school which would in turn be integrated into a 5-year district technology plan.

Brenda Thomas, a committee member and the computer specialist at Ferron Elementary, said, “After many hours of hard work, the Technology Committee has gained a clear understanding of where we are right now in technology. We also know throughout the district what our goals are for the future, and we have developed steps to help the district reach these goals.” She added, “It is exciting to be part of a committee that can impact so much growth in the area of technology.”

To establish common ground for the 5-year plans, the Technology Committee created five subcommittees to write plan criteria and review each of the 10 school’s submissions. The subcommittees represent: professional development, infrastructure, communications, curriculum fidelity and performance reviews, and budget. School plans are unique to school needs and mission statements while the district plan will set direction and support for all schools.

In addition to crafting 5-year technology plans, the committee has also supported the Emery District Professional Learning Community (PLC) integration. According to the superintendent, PLCs are designed to bring teachers from a common domain or discipline together to review academic growth data for each student. That data is then used by teachers to establish individual student academic plans. The Technology Committee has dedicated a portion of its grant funding to provide a data platform for teachers, which not only provides formative (on-going) and summative (finalized) data, but which also provides test-generating capabilities and student tracking. The committee has also supported professional development for teachers and administrators for advancement of PLC work.

When asked to sum up her feelings about being part of the Emery District Technology Committee, Ashley Jensen, district elementary counselor, said, “My experience has been very positive. It has been wonderful to collaborate with other educators in the district towards making progress in technology for the entire school district. We have discussed technology needs across the district and come up with plans to best use our technology resources in a way that makes the most positive change for all of the students in our district.”

Members of the Technology Committee are: Chairman, Doug Johnson; Parent, Lori Tuttle; School Board Member, Royd Hatt; Superintendent, Larry Davis; District Administrators, Jed Jensen, Ralph Worthen and Ryan Maughan; Business Manager, Jared Black; IT Department, Wayne Roberts; Library/Media, Peggy Johnson; Elementary Principal, John Hughes; Elementary Teacher, Carli O’Neil; Secondary Principal, Doug Mecham; Secondary Teacher, Eric Mortensen; Counselor, Ashley Jensen; Computer Specialist, Brenda Thomas; and District Office Staff, Kerri Allred and Jackie Allred.