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Budget Woes Force Tough Choices for Schools

Pre-kindergarten innovations may be out soon, but increased access to technology is in for Branford Middle and High School students.

The Branford Board of Education faced both good and bad news in its first meeting since a added an additional $100,000 in cuts to its already beleaguered budget. A plan to bring a popular technological innovation to students was granted with cautious optimism, but some members voiced doubts about the future of pre-kindergarten classes in the district.

"I'm disappointed, I have to publicly state," said Superintendent Hamlet Hernandez. "I had hoped we'd be able to do all the innovations. I really felt as if they were sustainable."

He was referring to innovations that would have paved the way for a multi-year rollout of pre-kindergarten services across Branford. Only one school, , currently offers pre-kindergarten classes. The board has considered introducing classes at this fall, but Chairman Frank Carrano said he was uncomfortable moving ahead without a definite plan for expansion.

"I've been mulling this over," said Carrano. "I don't know how we can justify singling out one group of students for a benefit all the other students don't have by virtue of a decision we've made at the board ... It's important that we can stand before the community and say 'we don't have the resources, so we can't do it.'"

Carrano and the board are bracing for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.

"If we can't fund an additional program, I don't think we can justify maintaining a program at all," he said.

But Hernandez is still optimistic.

"Pre-k is still very much in the mix," he said.

He said there are other areas where damage can be mitigated, including tuition for special education. World languages classes for elementary school students are still on the table. And despite the reduced budget, the school will move ahead with a one-to-one plan, an initiative aimed at putting at least one computing device - such as an iPad or Kindle - in the hands of every high school and middle school student in Branford.

"This is not shared, this is not borrowed or put back on the shelf -- this is a device you have on you 24-7, 365 days," Chief Technology Officer Clint Kennedy told the board. Kennedy will spearhead the program, which has gained popularity in many states.

Board members expressed a desire to proceed cautiously, citing budgetary concerns. Hernandez said the school will reach out to outside parties for partnership, and he expected annual updates as the initiative progresses.

C May 17, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Develop Pre-K over the tech initiative. Kids have MORE THAN ENOUGH access to these devices outside of the classroom. This tech initiative is so gimmicky and useless and probably serves more to justify someone's CTO title than benefit kids. "CTO"?! When did school districts become a business. If it were a business teacher's wouldn't get automatic raises and pay would be based on performance. This is B.S. Get your priorities in line. Kids today understand the technology they are surrounded with. Especially if you are talking about learning how to use google maps and other every day things.
C May 17, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Let me add some more on "One to One". 1.GREAT! Let's give kids more devices so they have more reasons to stay inside after school. 2. This initiative opens up a huge pit of future costs that will prevent this program from continuing. Even if the first install was fully grant funded, the ongoing tech support costs equipment and software maintenance and upgrades will doom this program in the long run. This plan needs to be cut and a thought out much more before we take on these costs. Has there been an opportunity for parents to weigh in on this?
Janis Milam May 17, 2012 at 03:01 PM
This is so frustrating! Our kids are INDUNDATED WITH TECHNOLOGY! It keeps them from learning the basics like playing outside with other children which teaches them everyday tools that are important to their social and emotional development. Pre-K is the stepping stone and should be the number one priority!
JL May 17, 2012 at 05:39 PM
This is so upside down. Pre-K should be funded to insure increased long term student outcomes in academics, business, and socially. The one-to-one program seems to be focused on consumer technology that can be found on any smartphone and that will also require constant refresh funding. Perhaps done on a smaller scale, 11th or 12th graders only, might allow for the budget to keep up with technology. For example, Amazon and Mac are already releasing new versions of their products. The Kindle Fire 2 and the i-Pad Mini should be out this fall. The real technology initiative should push for students to have greater exposure to mathematic computer science, programming, and engineering. Yes all students need to know how to use technology but wouldn't it be better if they knew how to create technology?
Broke Dick Dad May 18, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Concur 100% with C's, Janis's and JL's comments. Guess what, there is a Chief Financial Officer, too. See this link on the BPS page http://www.branford.k12.ct.us/?PN=Contact One thing we can do as parents is to email these people our thoughts. Closing browser now to email Mr. Clint Kennedy to ask why not get an Apple Developers License to teach children how to MAKE mobile apps rather than consume.
Kathleen McNally May 19, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Kids lose their books constantly and you want to give them these devices. Pre-K is much more beneficial. Most kids have these devices already and use them at home and the library for homework, and many other things that we won't go into. I think before you do something as foolish as this you should think about the ones that are starting school and get back to basics. I'm finding out from decisions that are being made on a Board of Education level, town government level and U.S government level that just because you go to college doesn't make you a smart person. THINK PEOPLE! USE SOME COMMON SENSE. IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT BOOK/COMPUTER SMARTS. kpm

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