Westfield Middle School continues Chromebook roll-out

Westfield Middle School leadership team: Assistant Principal/Special Education Supervisor Karoline Kells, Assistant Principal Peter Lurgio, Assistant Principal Jessica Kennedy and Principal Paul Newton. (WNG photo)

WESTFIELD – Westfield Middle School updated the School Committee at its Dec. 16 meeting on the rollout of 1:1 Chromebooks for students, along with other new programs for seventh and eighth graders at the school.
Assistant Principal Karoline Kells gave the technology update, calling the program in which every student is assigned a dedicated Chromebook for use during the entire school day “a successful implementation.”
Kells said teachers are also receiving professional development help with Google Classrooms, which the guidance staff is also using.
“Every one of our faculty meetings is used as a tech meeting,” said WMS Principal Paul Newton.
School Committee member Diane Mayhew asked what if a child does not have access to a computer at home to get Google classroom information. Newton said Google classroom can also be accessed on iPhone. Teachers also will give out paper assignments, Kells added.
“We’ve been talking about one-to-one computers as long as I’ve been here on School Committee. It’s great that we’re finally getting there,” said committee vice-chair Ramon Diaz, Jr.
Newton said it is huge, and can’t be understated. Plans are to implement one-to-one technology in the whole district, which takes time. The Westfield Intermediate School is planning to introduce the program in the second semester, which begins the third week of January.
“Have there been any hiccups,” asked School Committee member Bo Sullivan.
Newton said the biggest hiccup is managing the wear and tear on devices. “It’s more than what we thought we’d have,” he said, adding that they are currently exploring other options, such as short-term insurance that families might voluntarily purchase while their child is using the device.
After the meeting, Newton said students are responsible for the Chromebooks assigned to them, just as they are for any other school-issued materials such as locks or textbooks if they lose or damage them.
He said different problems are arising with the Chromebooks; some due to accidents, some through irresponsible use, and some due to malicious damage.
Newton said if a student chooses to purchase a protective case, it’s something they could do if they like. “The cost of a case could be the same as two years’ worth of insurance,” he said.
Newton said nothing has been decided. “We’re only four months into this, and different things keep popping up.” He said the school did a mini-lesson with students at the start of the year to explain what care of a Chromebook looked like.
He also said the technology committee will be getting together after the New Year.

Assistant Principal Peter Lurgio spoke to the School Committee about the Career Symposium held in November. He said prior to the symposium, they surveyed the seventh and eighth graders on careers of interest to them, and invited professionals from those careers to speak to the students.
Ray Diaz and Stefan Czaporowski were both speakers, he said. One goal of the symposium was to answer the often-posed question, why am I going to school?
Lurgio said he had spoken to a student earlier that day who was asking that question. When he asked her what she wanted to be, she said she wanted to go into the army. He asked, do you think they want educated people or uneducated people? Lurgio said he got the “aha” he wanted.
Newton spoke about WMS’ leadership initiative, Generation Leadership, which is in its third year at the school. He said students either self-identify for the group or are selected by teachers. They have been flying in a facilitator from Sacramento, Aric Jackson; and currently have 90 students in the leadership club.
Newton also reported on the first Westfield Youth Leadership Conference held on Dec. 13 at Westfield State University. He said 80 students attended from WMS, 60 from West High School, and 60 from other Western Massachusetts schools.
Among the speakers were Acting Mayor Ralph J. Figy and Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski who welcomed the students in the morning; State Representative John Velis who addressed students after lunch, and Johnson, who gave the keynote address. Johnson gave keynote address. Students also attended breakout sessions during the day.
“It was a phenomenal day; over 200 kids taking part at Westfield State University,” Newton said, adding that after the event, WSU Dean Enrique Morales-Diaz said to him ‘Wait until next year; it will be bigger and better.’
School Committee member Heather Sullivan asked Newton what are the qualifications or measures to select leadership students.
“We invite any student to self-identify,” he said, adding that other students are recommended by their teachers.

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