Muskegon Public Schools Tech Upgrades Nearly Done, Teacher Training Unfinished

Andrew Trzaska | November 17, 2010

Technology improvements funded by Muskegon Public School’s 2009 bond initiative are almost complete, but time constraints have slowed teacher training for the technology.

At Tuesday night’s Muskegon school board meeting, Technology Department Supervisor Kip Griffin updated those in attendance on the status of computer upgrades across the school system.

315 sets of instructional technology were recently installed in rooms in the school system.  Each unit includes a ceiling-mounted projector, interactive whiteboards and input tablet, a sound system, auxiliary jacks for other A/V equipment, and a cart with control system to integrate all the other pieces.

Of the $3 million allotted to technology in last year’s $12.5 million Muskegon Public schools bond issue, Griffin noted that $2 million went to installing these $1 went to updating other related equipment, including network printers and a digital video delivery system.
Work should be completed within a month, according to Griffin.  Yet, teacher training with the 315 instructional technology lags behind the installation, which he said is due to a series of ill-timed dates and requirements.

The school system is looking to get back nearly 90% of the money allotted to update technology infrastructure, namely wiring and other installation components, through a USF grant.  After the May 2009 approval of the bond, the soonest the school system could apply for the USF rebate was November of 2009.  Once they received approval, the soonest the district could start installing was the new fiscal year, beginning in July 2010.  This 14-month series of hurdles only gave installers less than two months to install equipment before the new school year, and instructors even less time to train educators with the equipment.

“[USF and the fiscal year] threw a big wrench into the rollout,” said Griffin. “There was just not enough time to train everyone to the level we wanted to have them.”

Several board members expressed disappointment with the inability to train all teachers earlier and to a higher level. Griffin expressed interest in having after-school sessions, because in-service hours are precious and paying for substitute teachers would be difficult and costly.

“The issue is carving out those days.  We have very limited professional development days left for the school year.”

When asked after the meeting about the status of the technology upgrades, school board president Rev. Charles Poole expressed optimism.

“It’s going to be very meaningful to the education process once teachers and students get working with it.”

Muskegon Public Schools will have to wait at least six months to receive their USF rebate. Griffin said that to receive up to $400,000 back, the district will need to go through paperwork, an audit and wait for the funds.  The whole process can only begin, though, once installations are complete.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst