Florida School District Teams Technology with Training

Valerie G. Spriggs, Southwest Florida Teacher Education Center, and Harriett C. Bohannon, School District of Lee County, Ft. Meyers, Fla. Lee County is located on the quiet side of Florida, on the lower Southwest coast of a state usually associated with wide beaches, palm trees and a laid-back lifestyle. Despite the area's low key atmosphere, the School District of Lee County was one of the earliest Florida counties to marshal resources and join the technology revolution. The district's break-through program began with a 1991 commitment to provide computer access for teachers, administrators and the district's 50,000 students. The superintendent and school board members established development of a "Five-Year Technology Plan" as one of its five priorities for 1991. A Technology Task Force utilized participatory planning that involved over 90 district staff and community representatives. Task force members established equipment and standards, determined software programs to be supported, and committed to independent training of teachers. They approached the project in three phases (see Figure 1). The Five-Year Technology Plan One goal of the plan was to install core technology in all elementary, middle, high and specialty-center schools. It comprised: A teacher workstation for all instructional staff, including color monitor, printer and CD-ROM drive; An administrative workstation for each principal and assistant principal; Shared multimedia peripherals consisting of a projection device, scanner, VCR, videodisc player and digital still-shot camera; Five computers per elementary classroom; One 15-workstation lab in each elementary school, two 15-workstation labs in each middle school, and five 30-workstation labs in each high school; Software budget of $60 per student FTE; Funding for district-specified electronic mail and productivity software and for a school-selected grade management package; and Full-building wiring to facilitate staff communication and data sharing. Aside from hardware and software details, the Five-Year Technology Plan identified professional development as its most critical component since teachers and administrators are not likely to embrace technology if they do not understand how it can help restructure today's schools. Two recommendations were made for staff training initiatives: Develop a technology training plan to address the technology competencies required by all staff&emdash;from teacher to administrator to support staff; and Allocate at least $100 per FTE each year for technology education for staff. This was in addition to any training provided to the schools by hardware and software vendors. The Five-Year Technology Plan was published, distributed and approved by the school board members. Funding was secured through Certificates of Participation, competitive grants and school improvement funds. Attention then focused on the importance of training. The Staff Development Center (SDC) was moved to a large office located in the central services building. Space was designated for three training rooms. Two are technology labs; one is IBM-based and the other has Macs, both of which are necessary to meet the training needs of our dual-platform district. An administrator was added to coordinate training, and support personnel. Present staff includes a director, three administrators, two teachers-on-assignment, five support staff and four part-time employees. Representative members from Curriculum Services, Media Services, Staff Development, MIS and teachers from elementary, middle, high and vocational schools designed the delivery system for instructional technology training. Delivery System for Staff Development Lee County's Staff Development Plan strives to assist implementation of inservice programs that will improve student performance and enhance the work environment for employees. Training opportunities are structured on four levels of involvement: Awareness: receiving basic information on a selected strategy. Knowledge: studying a selected strategy in depth. Skill Development: learning how to apply strategies to promote student success. Application: internalizing skills through continued practice and feedback. A variety of opportunities for progressing through these levels are offered (see Figure 2). Components of Staff Development Plan Four major components comprise the Staff Development Plan: teacher, administrator, staff and an advisory council for each school. Teacher Component Southwest Florida Teacher Education Center (SWFTEC): This consortium of three districts includes Glades, Hendry and Lee Counties. Teacher education programs are planned by the SWFTEC Council to meet annual goals for each county and are available to all teachers in the three counties. Districtwide: Individual sessions and strands for teachers (totaling at least 10 hours of instruction on a discipline) offered on a districtwide level. School-Based: These focus on school goals and conducts programs in the school setting whenever feasible. The school is the basic unit of change, and local schools have primary responsibility for scheduling and planning staff development programs. Individual: Employees are allowed to be flexible in planning for their own needs through other institutions, agencies, etc., when appropriate. Various individualized programs are available through the SDC. Administrator Component This component provides professional development experiences for administrators in areas related to instructional leadership and organizational development. Support Personnel Component This component provides professional development experiences for non-managerial staff to support district and job-site objectives, and to improve work performance. School Advisory Council Component By August 1993, each school selected a School Advisory Council (SAC) to develop a School Improvement Plan. Council members include all stockholder groups: teachers, administrators, support personnel, students, parents and community citizens. This training component supports their work. All groups employed by the School District of Lee County and all teachers in the SWFTEC Consortium are afforded multiple opportunities for professional growth. Three inservice days are provided in Lee County's school calendar; inservice days in other consortium districts may vary. Inservice points earned may be used to renew teaching and administrative certifications. Inservice programs for support personnel may be required where certifications or site supervisor requirements are involved. Incentives are provided to encourage professional development. Additionally, there is a leadership development plan for certified employees seeking promotion to administrative positions. Inservice Incentives: Time & Money The major changes now occurring in education require all employees to develop new knowledge, skills and attitudes. Two days are designated in the instructional calendar as inservice days for Lee County teachers. In addition, many inservice programs are scheduled for off-duty time, and a series of incentives have been created to encourage employees to enroll. For example, state grants for instructional technology provide a limited number of stipends for teachers and administrators to participate in "technology institutes." These are scheduled during the evenings and on Saturdays throughout the year. A stipend of $100 is available to members of the Support Personnel Association of Lee County, upon completion of an approved inservice program of 24 hours or more. Programs approved for this option are described in the Support Personnel section of the Staff Development Plan. Hours earned in selected inservice sessions, scheduled during off-duty time and for which no stipends are paid, may be used to earn release time on designated teacher-duty days. This option is only available to certified instructional personnel. For each six hours of inservice attended on off-duty time, a flexible day may be earned as an "off-day." Days off earned through the flexible format must be reported to the SDC a minimum of three weeks prior to the scheduled duty day to which they are being applied. The teacher is responsible for grades and other reports, which must be turned in prior to the "off-day." Trainers submit attendance rosters following the last day of their program. School Inservice Representatives are responsible for assuring this occurs. One week prior to each "flexible inservice day," principals get a report showing the number of eligible hours earned by each teacher. The principal then authorizes the "off-day" and updates the record of hours used in the flex-time program. On June 30th of each year, all unused "flex" hours are removed from the official SDC records. Hours earned in "flex time" after July 1 of each year are available during the following school year. Hours do not carry forward from year to year. Also, any hours earned in the Professional Orientation Program are considered pre-service training and are not eligible for flex-time credit. This pilot project was evaluated to determine impact and effectiveness in June 1993; based on that data, "flex-time" has been continued to the present date. Details on Fees & Faculty for Training School improvement accounts for staff development have been established at all schools for 1994/95. Funding for site-based, decision-making schools will be provided at $9.50 per unweighted FTE, and in all other schools at $8 per unweighted FTE. Funds from these accounts may be used to provide staff development activities that support the goals of school improvement and/or accountability, and must be approved by the School Advisory Council and the principal. Funds come from Lottery Enhancement and Chapter 11. Staff development expenditures may include consultant contracts, supplemental contracts for district employees, stipends, out-of-county travel reimbursement, supplies, printing, software, audio/visual materials, substitutes and rentals. Equipment and other capital expenditures cannot be made with these funds. Independent Consultant Contracts: The SDC maintains a catalog of consultants who present districtwide and/or school-based inservice. Their fees vary widely and are negotiated with the client (district or school). Independent consultants may request expenses. Per diem, traveling expenses, and mileage are authorized in accordance with Florida statutes. Per diem for breakfast is $3, lunch is $6 and dinner is $12; mileage is reimbursed at 25¢ per mile. Trainer Presenting Inservice on Temporary Duty: District employees granted temporary duty by their site supervisors to present training programs for schools or departments are not eligible for an hourly rate of pay. They are, however, eligible to be paid for planning time (one-half the length of the training session) for programs less than four hours long. The rate is $17.34 per hour for those with a bachelor's degree or $20.35 per hour for those with a masters. For example, a six-hour training program would warrant payment for three hours of planning time for a contract of $52.02/$61.05. Budgets are charged an additional 25.22% for benefits. (Example: $100 x .2522 = $125.22 total cost with benefits.) The trainer is expected to complete the planning on off-duty time. Trainer Presenting Inservice on Off-Duty Time: District employees who deliver training after their contract day, on Saturdays or during vacation periods, are eligible for the same hourly rates as above. This includes compensation for planning, presenting and evaluating performance. New Trainers: Many district employees have been trained at district expense to deliver inservice. As new trainers they are expected to offer the program three times without compensation. The SDC maintains a log of free trainer services to which schools may refer. SDC Personnel: Finally, all members of the SDC administrative staff are trained to deliver a number of the programs. Their services are provided at no charge to the school. Step-by-Step Staff Development Syllabus Design and Other Contracts If a school requests a custom-designed program, for which no curriculum has been developed, a design contract may be offered for writing the syllabus. The syllabus must be aligned with an approved component in the Master Inservice Plan and must include the following elements: Course Outline, Goals and Objectives, Activities, Evaluation, Trainer Notes, and List of Materials. The product becomes the property of the district and must be submitted to the SDC for approval before inservice points can be granted. Curriculum design should be done on off-duty time and a rate of $50 per day may be paid; cost to the budget is $53.83. Teachers selected to facilitate certain inservice programs at school or regional sites may be eligible for Facilitator Contracts at $5 per classroom hour. The duties of the facilitator include, but are not limited to: registering the program, taking attendance, selecting activities for class, monitoring completion of class projects, submitting evaluation reports, collecting projects and delivering them to SDC, and coordinating with SDC staff. The School Advisory Council and principal may approve payment of stipends for employees attending inservice on off-duty time. The daily rate (6 hours of inservice) paid to the employee is $50; the charge to the budget, including benefits, is $53.83. All printing, copying and other materials purchased for school-based training are to be purchased with school funds and coordinated directly with the trainer who is hired. It is the responsibility of the trainer to contact the school and make arrangements for all support materials and audio/visual needs. Unique needs that cannot be met at the school are referred to the appropriate SDC coordinator. The SDC provides a school with all necessary forms to register participants and evaluate workshops. The School Inservice Representative is responsible for returning all forms to the SDC. What's Covered Ahead of Schedule In 1995, the School District of Lee County is completing the Five-Year Technology Plan one year ahead of schedule. The teaming of technology and training insures a successful learning experience for administrators, support personnel, teachers and students. Valerie Spriggs, coordinator of Teacher Education for the School District of Lee County, presented the district's achievements at an IBM K-12 Executive Educator's Conference in January 1995.What’s Covered Level I - DOS Level II- DOS Microsoft Works Microsoft Word Microsoft Publisher Microsoft Excel IBM LinkWay Aldus/Adobe PageMaker Intro to Microsoft PowerPoint Intro to Microsoft Access Telecommunications - DOS & Mac Level I - Mac Level II - Mac ClarisWorks - Mac HyperStudio - Mac Troubleshooting - DOS & Mac Aldus/Adobe Persuasion Mac Data Entry FoxPro - Mac Multimedia - DOS & Mac File Server: AppleShare - Mac Disk Operating System Novell Networking Advanced Troubleshooting Higher-Order Thinking Skills in Technology Instructional Software - Mac Curriculum Connections Teacher as Facilitator of a Technology-Based Classroom TLC Training (Teaching and Learning with Computers), IBM classrooms Overview of Florida Information Resource Network (FIRN) Harriett Bohannon, as MIS Director for the School District of Lee County, has been involved in the efforts from the initial day.Project ApproachPhase I Needs Assessment Conduct Staff Interviews InstructionalAdministrative Evaluate Infrastructure Develop Needs Assessment Conduct Workshops Phase II Strategic Planning Develop Instructional Models Develop School Building Models Explore & Evaluate Alternatives Select Action Plan Conduct Workshops Phase III Technology Plan Expand Action Plan Develop Technology Plan Conduct Workshops Publish Plan Present Results Institutes: events scheduled for one or more days, offering a menu of sessions revolving around integrated themes, with expert consultants and opportunities for collegial discussionand planning.Seminars: one-day events with a central theme, utilizing expert consultants and group participation.Retreats: districtwide or site-specific, one or more days, for work group expansion of knowledge and implementation planning for a particular theme.Conferences: local, state and national experiences selected to broaden knowledge and to assess adaptability of outside programs.Support Groups: networking to share information and to develop strategies.Workshops: introductory three- to six-hour sessions to build awareness, provide basic information and allow participants to determine future areas of focus."Strands:" 12 or more hours of concentrated study in selected areas.Peer Coaching: a strand of concentrated study plus a collegial support component.Training of Trainers: a strand of concentrated study to develop skill in working with adult learners; includes training in preparation and presentation of inservice sessions.Pilot Participation: establishment of core teams of teachers, administrators and support personnel at given sites to implement specific programs.Individualized Inservice Packets: a designated course of study completed independently, including checkpoint evaluations of progress and an end assessment of accomplishment.Video Study: independent or group study through the use of commercial or locally produced videotapes.Cadre Team Development: training a group of individuals in a core concept with a responsibility to aid implementation of the concept at the local school level.Teleconferences: nationally organized transmissions that allow local participation.Step-by-Step Staff DevelopmentStep-by-step, this is how Lee County’s Staff Development Center provide the best service: Customer identifies needs; Customer initiates request for inservice; SDC personnel consult with customer; SDC personnel aid with design of inservice needed and identify trainers; Trainer consults with customer to schedule service, and contracts with the school if appropriate; Customer communicates with SDC to confirm schedule, objectives and request support services; SDC mails requested inservice materials to customer; Inservice is delivered; Customer returns inservice record forms and evaluations to SDC for processing; Request for inservice is complete.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/1995 issue of THE Journal.