Texas School Relies on Donations to Meet Tech Needs

Contributions from a hospital have allowed a middle school in Odessa to purchase more than 1,000 Chromebooks.

by Ruth Campell, Odessa American / December 17, 2018

(TNS) — Knowing that her campus is going to get 300 Google Chromebooks in January makes Wilson & Young Medal of Honor Middle School Principal Yolanda Hernandez smile.

With her school of 1,100 students and limited technology resources, Hernandez has been struggling to schedule time for students’ learning and testing. Students have been allowed to use their own devices, but the donation will give her school a break.

Hernandez said the contribution will give her students a chance to use the laptops for research, homework, to work on creative projects, work collaboratively and explore careers.

Along with Wilson & Young, Bowie, Bonham and Nimitz will receive a total of 1,170 laptops through a donation from Medical Center Health System, the MCHS Foundation and Cerner, an MCHS vendor.

The MCHS Foundation contributed $113,640 and the health system matched it with a $113,000 donation. Cerner also donated $73,359, plus discounts on the Chromebooks, MCHS President and CEO Rick Napper previously said.

“Using technology has become a way of life for students. It’s up to us to use it in classrooms to keep them challenged and engaged,” Hernandez said.

“It will give students more hands-on experience in the classroom. At the same time, the teacher can give real-life feedback on documents they’re doing in Google Classroom,” she said.

Hernandez added that she’s glad for her teachers and students.

“We’re very excited,” she said. “Our staff is very excited. It’s a dream come true. I’m still smiling. I can hardly wait until we get them because it’s needed.”

Bowie Principal Shelia Stevenson and Bonham Principal James Ramage are in agreement.

Stevenson, who has about 1,200 youngsters at her school, said having the Chromebooks will help students in their future careers.

“It gives students the opportunity to enhance the interaction with their classmates and the instructors by encouraging collaboration. That’s what we want to see in teaching and learning. The students are going to be able to access the most up-to-date information. They will be accessing that information quicker and easier and the teacher becomes the coach and the facilitator,” Stevenson said.

Currently, Bowie, like many other ECISD campuses has Istation, an e-learning reading and math intervention program.

“Students will have many more opportunities per week to use that program. … At the middle school level, our students don’t have many opportunities to use the Istation right now because we’re limited in mobile devices,” Stevenson said.

When they get the Chromebooks, they will be able to use them three times a week instead of the current twice a month.

Stevenson and Ramage say they are grateful to Napper and Ravi Shakamuri, president of the foundation board.

“Those two men have the passion, commitment and a partnership in place right now to support our student achievement, education opportunities and the programs for ECISD,” she said.

ACCESS@ECISD, a partnership among ECISD, Odessa College and health institutions ties in with the Chromebooks, Stevenson said.

Initially, the partnership is meant to connect students with possible careers in health care and introduce them to healthy lifestyles that can also impact their families.

Ramage has about 1,078 students and the Chromebooks will be used for everything from classroom instruction to online assessment and research projects. Bonham has 60 Chromebooks given to it by ECISD.

“In this day and age, that’s just an important component of how they learn. These kids have been raised on iPads, touch screens and smartphones. They don’t know a world that doesn’t have it. Having these Chromebooks is a game changer for us,” Ramage said.

He added that teachers also won’t have to wait in line to use laptops and online assessments can be conducted in a timelier way.

“I think what they’ve done is tremendous,” Ramage said of the hospital’s donation. “I think they see the value of education. They understand the needs of our kids and our schools and their donation is directly impacting our school. I can’t say enough nice things. We’re ecstatic that MCH and their CEO at what they’ve done. They have a very clear vision of helping our schools and directly impacting our instruction. I’m very pleased and thankful they made a donation to our schools.”

Interim Superintendent Jim Nelson said combined with the gift from SouthWest Bank to Crockett Middle School, the laptops will allow students to have enough new technology to use the state’s interim assessments, which are now given online and are “excellent predictors” of performance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test.

“The gift had been in the works for a while, so I was not surprised, but I was extremely pleased and grateful,” Nelson said.

Napper said the @ACESSECISD partnership has paired the hospital with Bowie and Bonham.

“When we met with principals they said what put students at disadvantage was that they didn’t have access to the same technology that other schools have,” Napper said.

After doing some research, Cerner helped get a discounted rate.

“They donated money, then the foundation donated and then we just made up the difference,” Napper said.

Napper said he’s giving to the students. He added that students are the future of the community and he can’t think of a better place to invest the money.

“We are a major employer in the community. … The students in eighth grade now are the citizens that will mold this community in the future. The more that we focus on making them better students, the better the community will be in the future,” Napper said.

©2018 the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.