School officials focused on upgrades to system's network
by By David Lazenby
May 25, 2011 | 829 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By DAVID LAZENBY

Daily Mountain Eagle

As Jasper school board members on Monday utilized a year-old technological upgrade -- laptops on which they can access documents related to their monthly board meetings -- the officials discussed a future electronic advance they believe will benefit Jasper City Schools students, their parents and their teachers.

JCS Superintendent Robert Sparkman said he wants to refine the school system's computer network.

Sparkman said the JCS central office staff recently visited some other school districts to learn more about their network capabilities.

He added that already the city school system's network has improved in recent years thanks to the efforts of JCS technology coordinator Susan Chandler and her staff.

"What we're looking to do -- and Susan has been researching this -- is to broaden our network capabilities so that we allow all of our stakeholders -- our parents, our students, board members, whoever it is -- to be able to come into our network and have work saved inside the network that they can access at home or wherever you are," Sparkman said.

Sparkman said this summer officials would like to put in a few different pieces of software -- all which he said are reasonably priced -- to give the school system a "portal" to the network.

"Here's the big thing, I think, in all this. A student can sit at the kitchen table and work on assignments a teacher has put on the site, finish it, save it and it's back at the school to be brought up again on Monday morning," Sparkman said. "It doesn't require paper, it gives us a lot of great opportunities, through a new website we're going to develop, for all schools in the district."

Sparkman added he believes the use of technology to facilitate more learning outside of the classroom is "the future of education."

Chandler said Microsoft Live, one of a software brands the school system would like to utilize, is free.

"It's going to improve our parent-teacher communication," Chandler said. "Let's say one parent logs in. They have three students who go to (different city schools). When that parent logs into the website, they see all three of their students. When they click on a student they see every one of their classes. ... They can see their grades, they can see their assignments, they can drop their homework in there, they have a calendar where they know when homework is due. It's just going to be an unbelievable communication tool."

Board member Pat Nelson quipped, "So Susan, you're saying this is different than when I went to school?"

Sparkman said school system employees will be working on the improvements over the summer and hope to have the upgrades in place by this fall.

"Susan believes they can get this accomplished," he said.

According to Chandler, it only took one day for the state of Kentucky to install Microsoft Live in all of its school systems.

Chandler added that having Microsoft Live will put Powerpoint, Access and other Microsoft programs at students disposal.

"It's a shame for us not to use this free resource," she added.

Although Microsoft Live is free, Sparkman said the upgrade will come at a cost, approximately $12,000. He said the expenses will mostly be for labor and technical support.