, Salem, MA


February 20, 2013

Our view: School tech woes grow quickly


That’s unacceptable in 2013, when our students are expected to graduate from high school with the skills needed to compete in a wired world.

At least Marblehead school officials, the School Committee and the community at large are meeting the problem head-on. In this economic climate, it would be easy to essentially give up and say the problems are too expensive to be fixed. It would be just as easy to pass the problem on to voters in the form of a Proposition 21/2 override.

Lord and Superintendent Gregory Maass are working to address what problems they can without adding to the district budget. One idea is to purchase refurbished computers instead of new ones to cut down on costs while still replacing outdated machines. Next year’s proposed budget is being reworked to deal with some of the problems. One $60,000 proposal, for example, would add a tech-support employee at the high school. Tech support has been a chronic problem — a ratio of one technician per 100 computers is typical in the private sector, according to the report. Marblehead has been operating at one technician per 650 computers. And community groups are pitching in, as well.

The shocking thing about the problem is how quickly it snowballed. It was just a little more than 10 years ago that Marblehead had a new high school with state-of-the-art computer equipment and technology.

Just like spending on, say, maintenance for the school boiler is among the first things cut when budgets are tight, it’s easier to put off continued investment in technological infrastructure than face the prospect of cutting teachers or increasing class sizes. But continued investment must be made.

It’s a lesson that districts with new, state-of-the-art schools — like Beverly and Danvers — should pay attention to now. Trying to solve the problem 10 years down the road will likely be much more difficult and costly.

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