Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Cobb Co. Laptop Debacle

Last year ,Cobb County passed a tax referendum to raise funds to refurbish, replace and upgrade obsolete computers, printers and such.

Shortly thereafter, local citizens start hearing reports that Cobb County will phase in a program where all high school students (actually grades 6 - 12) will receive their own laptop. The cost of the initiative was estimated at over $70 million and roughly a $20 million yearly maintenance cost. This program was to be funded by the aforementioned tax revenue.

Cobb County is not the first school district to try this sort of program. The Vail Unified School District in Arizona has done something similar.

Recently a judge halted the program after ruling that it was being improperly funded by the tax referendum which was passed by the voters to refurbish, replace and upgrade obsolete computers, printers and such. Not to give every student a laptop.

Not only that, but there is concern that the awarding of the contract may have been rigged in favor of Apple.

Now, it appears that Cobb County schools Superintendent Joseph Redden announced his resignation Tuesday evening. He was quoted on local news radio station WSB 750 AM as saying, if he had to do it all over again, he'd "have spent more time on selling the program to the citizens" (as close to an exact quote as I can remember).

Basically, this wonderful initiative was poorly implemented by Cobb County school leadership. There are lots of questions surrounding this program that seem to have gone unanswered. Not the least of which are the program's policies, procedures, monitoring, censoring, etc... I've heard little about the details of this program. Basically, all we were told was the Cobb Co. would be implementing this program system wide. Last night, I queried a neighbor of mine about the issue, figuring that since she has two children in high school, she'd have been given more info from the county about the program's details. Unfortunately, it seems that there was not much of an attempt, if any, to get the high school and middle school parents information about the program. My neighbor is just as clueless as the rest of us.

And can you believe this? As a Cobb County parent of a child within the school system, I have to wonder about the merits of this initiative when my children are asked to bring handsoap as part of their necessary/suggested school supplies. The Pre-k program even asked us to bring in two reams of copy paper for the class drawing supplies.

Mr. Redden and his staff seemed to do a poor job of communicating the details of this program to the citizens of Cobb County. My children are in the school district and I've heard very little other than what has been reported in the news media. With proper management of this initiative, everyone could have been saved a lot of grief.

Bottom line, I have little or no problem with the initiative. Cobb County students will one day have laptops in school. It's not a question of if it'll happen, it's just a question of when. But thanks to mismanagement of this effort, everyone loses.