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LB 2016 pledges to help fund new technology at Mary Blount

posted Oct 3, 2016, 7:41 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 7:43 AM ]
As the second semester begins, Mary Blount Elementary School has partnered up with the Leadership Blount Class of 2016 to achieve its goal of providing Chromebooks and iPad minis to every child in the classroom.

Members of LB Class of 2016 came to make a surprise announcement last week. The group has selected Mary Blount technology as its legacy project and has committed to raising a minimum of $36,000 to purchase needed equipment. Director of Schools Rob Britt, Communications Coordinator Betsy Cunningham, MBES Principal Jesse Robinette, Assistant Principal Suzanne Graves and the school’s teachers were present for the announcement. Britt said he was speechless when he learned about the huge commitment. He was also very complimentary of Mary Blount staff and their readiness to make this happen. “You have positioned yourself to be our first 1 to 1 school,” he said, referring to the ratio of one computer for every child. “We talked about a number of schools that we felt like would be very successful, but we kept coming back to
Mary Blount.”

The first 1 to 1

Blount County Schools has a strategic plan to be able to provide digital devices to every child in the classroom at all of its schools. Britt said this is a great beginning.
“This will move our strategic plan fast and furious,” he told those gathered last week. “Mary Blount will become our first 1 to 1 and a learning center.”
According to Courtney Stewart, technology coordinator at Mary Blount, they currently have 290 devices and will need to purchase 325 more to achieve the 1 to 1 goal.
Ginny Boles and Brad Rasmussen, gatekeepers for this LB class, made the announcement. Boles is the principal at John Sevier Elementary and Rasmussen is a counselor at Clayton-Bradley Academy. He worked previously in the Blount County Schools at Friendsville and Union Grove.

Ready to make it happen

The entire LB class visited Mary Blount weeks ago and learned that Robinette and other school leaders feel technology is where they need to move forward. It was decided by the LB class to take on the challenge. “We have some really big dreamers and some compassionate people on our team,” Boles said. She said the initial money will help provide the Chromebooks for students in grades 3-5. The iPad minis would be the second tier of the project, for students in K-2. The Chromebooks are laptops used primarily when hooked up to the internet, popular with many school systems. “As an educator, I believe there is no better way to impact a community than through education,” Boles said. Rasmussen said the LB class hopes to have the funds raised by May 1. There are already four teams that have been organized to work on the project he said. The first $7,000 has already been raised.“We are off to a great start,” he said.

When contacted, Mike Crabtree, director of curriculum and instruction for Blount County Schools, said the system as a whole has been working toward its strategic plan on technology. A self study has been underway to determine what kinds of skills teachers have. “Mary Blount will be a good laboratory for us,” Crabtree said. “They will be able to tell us what kind of training that’s needed, what the logistics are for rolling this out. Mary Blount will be the first to go all digital.” Crabtree said there are also a couple of other schools that might be ready to do the same next year. There is still some tweaking to do, he said, but great strides are being made.Getting the necessary infrastructure in place at all of the schools has been a main priority. Next, comes getting the teachers trained. “We also want to get the word out that using the Chromebooks and iPads doesn’t replace a teacher,” Crabtree said. “It’s one more tool. They are powerful, very flexible and offer a lot of content and experiences.”

The plan for next year is what the system is calling Early Adopter where they identify teachers who have the necessary skills. Model classrooms will be set up to help others gain more knowledge. The strategy is a three-year plan but it could be accomplished sooner, Crabtree said. Maryville City Schools just achieved the 1 to 1 ratio this school year. Boles said her school will help any way it can to make this successful at Mary Blount. “We want to form partnerships across school systems,” she said.

By Melanie Tucker-The Daily Times