Catherine Roberts, a senior at Inter-Lakes High School, speaks in favor of restoring $95,151 into the budget to keep the technology integrator position for grades seven through 12. (Photo by Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
March 16, 2017MEREDITH — Inter-Lakes will keep a technology integrator position after advocacy from student at the Inter-Lakes School District annual meeting.
Votes were cast on the Inter-Lakes School District warrant on Wednesday at the annual meeting at Inter-Lakes High School.
Voters had initially approved the district budget of $24,317,116 in Article 7.
At the end of the meeting Jackson Williams of Meredith moved to reconsider the article, saying that a number of people wanted to speak on it though there was some confusion over the labeling of the articles. The voters approved this motion.
Williams protested the budget's proposed removal of the technology integrator position for grades seven through 12.
The technology integration specialist works with students and teachers in the 7-12 level through numerous technology classes and topics. Williams, an ILHS senior, said this position makes technology more accessible in classrooms and allows students to stay competitive in technology. He said cutting this position will adversely affect students' ability to stay competitive and achieve at the college level and beyond.
"Without this position I believe you will not be strongly supporting science and technology," Williams said.
Williams moved to amend the article putting in $95,151 to cover the salaries and benefits of the technology integrator position for 7-12.
Catherine Roberts of Meredith, a senior at ILHS, said she decided to pursue a career in electrical engineering thanks to a number of programs through the technology integrator including Lego Robotics, 3D printing, making software, and more. She said she spoke many college students from other smaller high schools who said it was harder adapting to their technology programs without that integrator.
"It would be terrible if students in the coming years didn't have the same experience I did," Roberts said.
Superintendent Mary Moriarty said the district was facing a 12.6 percent Guaranteed Maximum Rate increase for health insurance, an increased contribution of $126,000 for the New Hampshire Retirement System, and declining enrollment. She said they wanted to preserve the current classroom teacher positions to keep class sizes reasonable. The decision was made in the budget process to cut the technology integrator.
Moriarty said the district would form a committee to look at technology and form a plan. The district does have a technology integrator for K-6 whose expertise could be utilized up to grade 12.
Moriarty said those technology experiences would continue in the curriculum.
Adam Nudd-Homeyer of Sandwich said he has seen the great importance of having a technology integrator in other districts.
"If you do not have that at the 7-10 level you miss an entire crowd of kids that could be recruited to this field," Nudd-Homeyer said.
Chris Williams of Meredith said the technology sector is seeking more employees but there is a shortage of qualified people.
"I would offer, given that and the fact there really isn't a clear plan in place that's actionable, how can we even consider not putting that amount back into the budget for that position?" Williams said. "It's something that, to me, is a no-brainer. I think that we'd want to think big picture instead of the near term cut."
Both Gretchen O'Neill of Center Harbor and Sonya Roberts of Meredith said removing this position would put an extra burden on teachers.
Roberts, a teacher whose husband teaches at Inter-Lakes Middle Tier, said the integrator has the time to bring these ideas to the classrooms and really supports the teachers
Colette Worsman of Meredith said she wanted to remind the voters that the board can use this money for anything they see fit. Chris Boldt of Sandwich asked the board if they would honor the request and put the money back for the technology integrator, board chair Richard Hanson said it would be.
Ray Moritz of Meredith said as an engineer he understands the importance of STEM education. On the other hand he said a solution for this cut has already been worked out and is the budget.
"I would suggest that we follow your lead and accept what you said would do for the students without that additional cost," Moritz said.
The amendment passed, bringing the final budget article to $24,412,267. The voters then approved the amended article.