School officials talk importance of $55 million tech funding measure – Santa Fe New Mexican

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A mother holding her son watches as her daughter uses a classroom Chromebook during a Digital Learning Night at Piñon Elementary School in 2016. Plaintiffs in the landmark Yazzie/Martinez education lawsuit say the state isn’t doing enough to provide computers and internet service to at-risk students, especially in rural areas where children are struggling with remote learning.

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A mother holding her son watches as her daughter uses a classroom Chromebook during a Digital Learning Night at Piñon Elementary School in 2016. Plaintiffs in the landmark Yazzie/Martinez education lawsuit say the state isn’t doing enough to provide computers and internet service to at-risk students, especially in rural areas where children are struggling with remote learning.
In addition to voting on the three school board seats up for reelection, Santa Fe voters this November will decide whether to approve a property tax levy to fund technology programs.
If supported by voters Nov. 7, the Education Technology Note, as it is called, would provide $55 million over the next five years to pay for technology infrastructure, equipment and support in both traditional public and charter schools across Santa Fe, Neal Weaver, Santa Fe Public Schools’ chief information and strategy officer, told the school board at its meeting Thursday night.
Historically, the Education Technology Note has gotten broad support from Santa Fe voters, with a three-year, $33 million note passed in 2015 and the current five-year, $55 million note passed in 2019, both with about 60% of the vote.
The note currently supports tens of thousands of devices in use at Santa Fe schools — including “one-to-one” technology distributed to each student — as well as enhancements like Wi-Fi-equipped school buses, digital textbooks, interactive whiteboards and the tools necessary to teach computer science, coding, robotics and 3D printing, said Peter McWain, the district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction.
The note also lets the district provide a safer, more secure network for students and staff to use — a particularly important feature given the school district was the target of an unsuccessful cyberattack last week, said Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez.
The technologies the note funds, McWain said, “are not luxuries. They’re absolutely essential for us to fully implement and fully leverage our instructional materials.”
Weaver said the note ensured Santa Fe Public Schools could transition relatively smoothly to remote learning at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and amid unforeseen site closures, like a waterline break at Ortiz Middle School in February.
Board member Carmen Gonzales said one of the major points of contention surrounding student use of technology is artificial intelligence, especially the use of text chatbots like ChatGPT to fudge schoolwork.
Though Santa Fe Public Schools doesn’t have a specific artificial intelligence policy yet, district officials are thinking about how to evolve with that technology, Chavez said.
“It’s very new, so this is an area that we’re exploring currently to provide enough guidance to our educators and our students on how to use it appropriately,” he said.
Board member Kate Noble said she hopes the district will continue to be “a leader” in its use of the Education Technology Note.
“This has really supported students and families in our community in their work and is leveling the playing field, not to mention really providing the foundation that we need and the educational future that our kids need and deserve,” she said.
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