School board passes fee increase, hears from technology trainers

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Tech assessment and training week
 
Visitors from this week’s technology assessment attended the meeting, sitting in rows of chairs in front of the board members.
 
The VMware Foundation approached Havre’s school district earlier in the year, calling it one on the “cusp of technology,” that would benefit from technology upgrades and training.
 
A team of representatives from VMware, two nonprofits that work in the field of education technology, Team4Tech and Consortium for School Networking, came to Havre last spring for an initial assessment and came back last week for additional work.
 
Carlson told the board that the group selected Havre Public Schools to receive technology help in the form of aid, training and several donations.
 
“The donations were servers and switches and a lot of technology stuff that I don’t understand, I’m not even going to try. And then a lot of training,” Carlson said this morning.
 
“All of this has been on them. … I can’t put a dollar amount on the training — there’s a really large investment in our school district,” Carlson said. “... They’ve been such great people, I’m kinda bummed it’s coming to an end. They’ve been a lot of fun.”
 
At the board meeting Tuesday, Carlson thanked the companies’ representatives for their workshops this week and their respectful stance as newcomers.
 
“It’s been better than you could’ve hoped for,” Carlson told the board.
 
The VMWare Foundation selected 14 “trekkers” from their employees who applied. The trekkers came from around the world to Havre this week to train students and teachers alike in new technologies, said VMware employee Uta Haller of Germany.
 
Carlson said he appreciated the trekkers’ thoughtfulness.
 
“A lot of people come here and they bring a lot of ideas,” Carlson said, adding that the new ideas were always welcome, but not always tailored to Havre’s needs. “They don’t take the time to get to know you.”
 
The trekkers, however, asked if their solutions were appropriate before moving forward, he said.
 
“Before they came to our place they wanted to know who we were,” Carlson added.
 
The interest was mutual, he said, adding that he got to exchange cultural information and experiences with a trekker from Singapore.
 
“It’s not just about us bringing technology,” Haller said, adding that she found many moments touching. “We were really impressed by the teachers, the questions.”
 
Marisa Glassman, senior global giving manager of the VMware Foundation, told the board that her company strives to build a culture of service among its employees. Everyone in the company does 40 hours of service learning, she said.
 
Glassman added that the company emphasized the term “service learning” to avoid the “white horse” mentality of volunteerism.
 
“It’s very much a relationship among equals,” she said.
 
Two representatives from Team4Tech, Gail Shen and Down Kwan, told the board about their company’s mission to bring 21st century skills and technology to communities around the world, including Alaska, Utah and now Montana.
 
Kwan shared stories of their experiences leading workshops in Havre. She mentioned a man who got frustrated while learning one of the hardest tools, micro-bit; his grandchild came over and helped him.
 
A young boy came up to one of the trekkers, she added, and gave her a high-five.
 
“This is the best day ever,” he said.
 
Shen said she admired the teachers she had met at Havre High.
 
“There are quality, quality educators everywhere,” she added. “We’re just bringing tools.”
 
Shen told the board that a big part of Team4Tech’s mission was to spread equality among females and males through making science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, accessible to all.
 
“It’s been a real joy and I look forward to the next few days,” Carlson said. “... I wish we could have a few more.
 
“We saw kids who don’t necessarily have their moments — they had their moments,” he added.
 
Principal Ed Norman told the representatives, “Whatever time you guys put in with your trekkers — they came in and were so friendly and cordial.”
 
Assistant Superintendent Craig Mueller said he witnessed the “genius” of the trekkers, who invented an English language game in the back seat during a long car ride.
 
“Half of them, English is not their first language,” Mueller said.
 
Haller said she was very impressed by Havre High, mentioning the Chrome books that the High School already had in place.
 
“I personally grew up in a rural area and I’m deeply grateful for the work you do,” she told the Board. “I wish I’d had a school like this growing up.”
 
Carlson added, “One of the things the trekkers shared was how fortunate our students are. That’s one of the things we struggle with every day is to convince kids, ‘This is what you have in front of you.’”