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Dist. 46 follows consultant's lead to newer technology
By Bob Susnjara | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 6/2/2008 12:01 AM

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Classroom technology similar to an electronic chalkboard is cited as one of the academic benefits from Grayslake Elementary District 46's hiring of Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Inc.

Superintendent Ellen Correll said her district received more than three awards from Blue Ribbon Schools for the nearly $40,500 spent in consulting fees and staff travel expenses. The expenses were approved to boost the education process, she said.

At a Grayslake District 46 school board meeting May 19, three principals gave a presentation on a test project for a SMART board. Manufactured by SMART Technologies, it is a high-tech version of a blackboard connected to a computer.

Amanda Schoenberg, principal at Prairieview School in Hainesville, said SMART boards have enhanced the learning environment for children since the test program began 1½ months ago.

"We believe this is a great investment for our schools," she said.

Part of the presentation noted how South Carolina-based Blue Ribbon Schools President/CEO Bart Teal found District 46 lacking in technology after studying its buildings last fall. The veteran educator's company gives advice to schools on how to improve, and provides awards to clients typically promoted in news releases and on Web sites without mention of a financial arrangement.

SMART Technologies was one of the vendors at the Blue Ribbon Schools' December conference.

Laura Morgan, principal of Meadowview School in Grayslake, said that event led to interest in the SMART board test project. She said District 46 has an opportunity to buy the devices at a discounted $750 to $2,600 per unit, as opposed to $1,399 to $3,299.

Teal's organization also made at least 65 suggestions beyond technology to District 46. They include:

• Having maps with student-friendly "I can" statements to promote ownership of learning standards at Prairieview, a pre-kindergarten through fourth grade school.

• Developing a more comprehensive new-teacher orientation plan at Meadowview, a kindergarten-through-fourth-grade school.

• Making better use of test data to drive instruction at Frederick School. The building serves fifth- and sixth-graders.

• Creating a school song at Grayslake Middle School. Children in grades seven and eight attend the school.

• Implementing a student leadership group and homework clubs at Park Campus in Round Lake, a building for kindergarten through eighth-grade.

As for the SMART boards, Correll said the plan is to have three in each of the district's seven schools.

"This truly integrates technology with our curriculum," she said.