Tradition and technology
Kentucky School Advocate
By Matt McCarty
Fort Thomas Independent is ranked No. 1 in Kentucky on state assessments and four of its five schools have been named National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence.
But Superintendent Gene Kirchner said district leaders weren’t satisfied and wanted to take the next step: digital conversion.
Kirchner said early on the district’s success and traditions were cause for pause among some staff.
“Tradition can be a vision killer,” he said. “If it’s always been good, why change?”
Kirchner, along with assistant superintendent Ginger Webb (pictured far right) and board chairwoman Karen Allen (center), detailed the transition during a clinic at KSBA’s annual conference.
“We had to take a very big picture approach,” Kirchner said. “We need to be preparing kids for their future, not our past.”
He said the need to change was driven by the need to focus students on the competencies they were going to need to be successful.
The conversion started by setting up the network infrastructure for the whole district. Then, in 2014-15, Highlands Middle School received 775 MacBook Airs for its students. The district hired two technology instructional specialists and created a student help desk. The following year, students and teachers at Highlands High School were supplied with MacBooks and the district hopes in the fall to have iPads available at the three elementary schools.
The goals of the conversion:
• Level the playing field among all students.
• Leverage technology as an instructional tool.
• Maximize the use of resources.
• Provide real-world connections to students.
Kirchner said students and teachers now are constantly communicating electronically and interest in the high school’s AP computer science class has doubled in a year.
He said the future for Fort Thomas is content creation within the district to reduce reliance on vendors.
The district is spending $130,000-$140,000 annually at the middle school level to lease the devices and another $160,000-$170,000 annually at the high school. More money will be allocated with the implementation at the elementary level in the fall. Kirchner says it’s money well spent.
“Just think about the return on that investment,” he said.