Members of the Steamboat Springs School Board gave an unofficial go-ahead Monday night to a transition plan for school district computers, but they raised several concerns about the plan's effectiveness.
At the board's meeting, Cath--leen Nardi, director of technology for the Steamboat Springs School District, presented a recommendation that computers in district schools be switched primarily to personal computers, or PCs, during the next three to four years. Steamboat schools now use Macintosh computers and PCs, making for a "double platform," which Nardi called inefficient and detrimental to educational success.
The two kinds of computers use different operating systems, which can hinder the transfer of information from one system to the other and can create a need to train teachers in two systems instead of one, Nardi said.
"Given the complexity of the technology programs we give to our students and staff, a single-platform environment makes a lot of sense," Nardi said, citing an October 2004 audit of the district's technology systems that recommended a single platform and compared Macs with PCs on several criteria.
"The No. 1 consideration we had was how (a computer platform) will impact student learning," Nardi said.
Although Monday night's meeting was a study session at which no official action was taken, board members gave "direction" for Nardi to continue plans to transition district computers to PCs, but they stated that the transition should go at a slower rate.
"I will not support a mass migration at this time," School Board President Tom Miller-Freutel said. "But I think migrating to PCs at some rate is appropriate."
Board members Jeff Troeger and John DeVincentis questioned several aspects of Nardi's proposal.
"I don't think we're asking the right questions," said Troeger, who teaches computer education at Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat. "I think it's a red herring."
Rather than "waste time" debating a single or double platform, Troeger said, attention should be given to how teachers are trained in computers, how students are using computers in classrooms and how the network infrastructure for district computers can be improved.
"We have a network infrastructure that's a mess," he said, a statement which Nardi disagreed with by calling the district's network, which was designed in 1996, "very dependable."
DeVincentis expressed doubts that the transition's price tag -- more than $230,000 for the first phase -- would be the best way to spend school district funds that could be better used in other ways, such as software upgrades.
"I'm very concerned about that cost," he said.
Board member Denise Connelly, a former language teacher, supported the transition provided that "teachers see it as something positive." Board member Pat Gleason also expressed support, saying the idea makes sense and is overdue.
"I've been waiting to have this conversation for years," Gleason said.
The next School Board meeting is Feb. 13.