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Cortines ‘jump starts’ LA Unified’s new Technology Task Force

Mike Szymanski | September 11, 2015

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Frances Gipson takes over at ITI Task Force

LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines delivered a “jump start” to the newly-reformed Instructional Technology Initiative Task Force at its first meeting of the school year yesterday. He addressed such concerns as an already-aging supply of computers, a change in task force leadership and his renewed effort to get a device in the hands of every student in the district.

Made up of 50 committee members, the ITI Task Force is charged with devising a district-wide technology strategy for improving the use of computers in classroom instructions. Almost immediately, it appeared that word wasn’t getting out very well.

When Linda Del Cueto, chief of Professional Learning and Leadership Development, said all teachers now have access to the two carts of computer devices in their schools that were assigned last year for state testing, two principals on the task force said they knew nothing about that possibility. Another principal said she knew about it, but her teachers had not yet taken advantage of the offer.

“We obviously need to get the word out a bit better,” Del Cueto said.

About 75 people attended the meeting at the Miguel Contreras Learning Center. The audience included parents, school administrators, tech company representatives and resource experts from the Cotsen FoundationEducation Elements and others (including a former consultant from the Broad Foundation). There is also a former student member of the task force from last year who is doing a thesis paper on the task force for Indiana University.

“This is a large, large project,” Cortines told the gathering. “I needed to jump-start this important movement. It is an important time for us.”

So important that he explained why he replaced the chairperson he had named in April, Judy Burton, when the task force was created. “She had not made the progress I had hoped,” he said. “We needed to move on.” The district has previously said Burton had stepped down for “personal reasons.”

In her place, Cortines last week appointed new Local District East superintendent Frances Gipson, who said she said she looks forward to developing a technology plan that school board would approve.

Cortines pointed out that the task force should not be worried about developing a funding stream; that, he said, is the board’s problem. “It will be no different than how we fund text books,” he said. “I see this as a five-year program where devices must be accessible to all students, and we have to work out a funding stream as well as a repair and replacement program.”

Cortines added, “We face an ominous situation because of the age of the devices we already have. There is an appalling number of devices in offices that are over five to 10 years-plus old, and that has to be addressed. This is not something the task force addresses, but something that this task force has to ask the board to address.”

Bill Wherritt, a Facilities Division official on the task force who is overseeing the device deployment to the schools, said he is getting computer devices to 30 schools this year alone. He pointed out that there are 70,000 devices in the district approved by the board, but schools have purchased another 160,000 devices on their own.

“There is a passionate group of teachers using them,” he said. “It is amazing what is happening in the schools.”

The task force plans to meet again on Sept. 24 and every other Thursday after that through the Spring at Contreras.

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