Dear Sir or Madam,
I appreciate the article written by Betsy Dolan about the Fort Bend ISD iAchieve program, also known as the iPad program (Fort Bend Star, June 27). Your readers might be interested in other aspects of the program that were uncovered during the June 11 Workshop and Board Meeting.
• Despite mischaracterizations by supporters of the iAchieve program, approval of the proposal to prevent use of the remaining $10 million of bond money allocated to the project would not have ended the program. It simply would have required the district to use funding sources other than bond money.
• Two current trustees voted against initial funding of the iPad program earlier this year. At the February 13 Board Meeting current President Jim Rice stated, “I am told that in 2013 the next legislative session is going to be another lean year. Somehow we have managed to teach our kids science and math without iPads for a very long time. So I just don’t think it’s the right time to do this.” Past President Susan Hohnbaum concurred, stating “I don’t feel that this is the right time either. We don’t know what needs that there are out there that will require some funds.” Yet, a mere four months later, the two of them changed their minds regarding funding of the program using bond money.
• During the February 13 board meeting when the iPad program was approved by a 4-2 vote (one board member was absent), supporters claimed that a key objective of the program was to bridge the achievement gap in science for student populations at At-Risk schools. However, of the 14 schools selected for Wave 1, eight of them are not At-Risk schools. Moreover, of these eight schools six of them were commended in science on the 2011 TAKS test. In other words, Cornerstone Elementary was selected, but Glover Elementary was excluded.
• Proponents claimed that none of the bond money will be used to hire new staff. Though true, other funding sources were nonetheless identified and subsequently approved by the prior Board of Trustees. As a result 17 IT engineers and managers will be hired during the coming school year at an average annual salary of $60,000.
• A “pilot program” designed to formally evaluate the academic performance of students using the iPads at three At-Risk school never occurred. Instead, the administration decided to proceed forward with Wave 1 without having the results of such a pilot. Current expenditures as of June 7 are $7.8 million including the purchase of 6,500 iPads, with $7 million of that amount coming from 2003 and 2007 bond funds.
• Contrary to published information on the FBISD website, the total budget for the iAchieve program is not $18.3 million, but $24.4 million, and counting.
Dr. James R. Bailey
Missouri City, Texas