FSCC to Host Public Forum for President Candidates

Fort Scott, KS —

Fort Scott Community College has been in the process of looking for a new President since last November. The Board has decided on four candidates from a pool of 20 applicants.

The four candidates are: Slade Griffiths, from Arkansas City, James Genandt, from Chanute, Sara Harris from Independence and Alysia Johnston from Edna. Each of these candidates have been scheduled to spend the day in Fort Scott. Part of their scheduled day will be to hold a public forum at FSCC in the Ellis Center at 1:30pm. They will share a few comments and the floor will be open for questions.

Dates candidates will be on campus are: Monday, the 23rd, Thursday the 26th, Friday the 27th and March 2nd.

Relay for Life of Bourbon County hosts event

Fort Scott, KS —

Last Friday night, Relay for Life (RFL) of Bourbon County held their KISS OFF event at Common Grounds Coffee Shop. The focus of the event was awareness, fun, fundraising and of course, to gather new supporters to the cause.

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Reaching out to a younger generation is important to all organizations and gathering at the local coffee shop was a great idea. RFL events included a Karaoke competition and music by interactive elective device musician, David Cedillo.

Karaoke was judged by Sarah Mae Lamar and Jeremy Culbertson, awarding prizes for first, second and third places. About 75  folks from around Bourbon Country came out the sing and have a good time. The organizers were very grateful for the outcome but also for Common Ground stepping up and donating a lot of time, energy and planning for this event.

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Another main reason for this event is to highlight their upcoming Relay. Allison Daly, the Community Manager, remarked, “there will be notable changes for this year’s event.” One of those changes will be moving the date from Summer to April 25th. Also, the location will be in the FSCC East parking lot rather than the walking trail. Daly also mentioned they are always looking for volunteers to help in a variety of capacities.

For more information or how you can become involved, please contact Allison Daly, allison.daly@cancer.org or 620.215.3865. Also, you can check our their web page here and the Facebook here!

Luv-N-Stuff, New Consignment Store

Kids grow so quickly and in their wake they leave many toys and clothes that are too nice to throw away.  Luv-n-Stuff 4 Kids was started by Karla Peterson in August as a place for you to sale such items.   At this kid friendly store, you will be be greeted by a welcoming and friendly environment as you walk through and explore the “gently loved” items that other parents have consigned.

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Being a parent and educator herself, Peterson, wanted to create a store that would serve as a valuable resource to the community and especially to parents, educators, and homeschooling families.

luvnstuff (19 of 21)Before heading to a city to buy sports uniforms, curriculum or kids furniture, stop by or give her a call to see if she has what you are looking for.   If you are in need of maternity clothes or trying to set up a comfortable room for your new little treasure swing by Luv-n-Stuff 4 Kids.  The store also has several custom made items such as doll clothes, hats, little purses, hair bows, tutus, and car seat covers.

Prices compare to ebay prices without shipping and the quality that she accepts is top notch.  If you are always looking for a better deal, the store has a weekly code or riddle on their Facebook page, which can save you an extra ten percent off.

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So if you have been looking for a place to make a little cash while cleaning out your closets, or you have been looking for some good quality kids items without spending too much, stop by Luv-n-Stuff 4 Kids and enjoy exploring the treasures that are waiting for a new home.

Consignments are by appointments only.  It is worth stopping by to get a feel for what type of items are accepted and to pick up a consignment agreement form, before bringing your stuff by.

205 East Third Street
620-240-3977
LuvnStuff4Kids@aol.com

Bella Roma, New Italian Restaurant

Fort Scott, KS – Have you been looking for a new Italian restaurant that serve authentic Italian dishes in Fort Scott? You need to make sure and stop in for a meal at Bella Roma. Bella Roma was started by Giovanni and Eddie Elezi. The brothers have several other successful restaurants in the South Eastern part of the state. After some consideration, they decided it was time to establish a restaurant in Fort Scott.

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Bella’s has been open almost two months now. Those who have discovered the restaurant already will find Fridays and Saturdays are full and may even end up on a waiting list. Giovanni, one of the Chef’s preparing the fare is from Palmera, Italy and their family has been making food for over 30 years.

Located at 302 East 1st street, they have transformed the space into a cozy Italian dining experience. The wait staff are friendly and enthusiastic about the restaurant and the vision the owners have for the new space.

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This weekend, they are offering a “Lover’s Special” Valentine’s Meal. This includes salad, entrée, drinks and cheesecake dessert for two for $39.95. Make sure and give them a call for all the details!!

Bella Roma
HOURS: 11am – 9:30pm

302 East 1st Street
Fort Scott, KS 66701
620-223-2633

Young Professional League of Bourbon County

Fort Scott, KS — Last Friday, February 6th Young Professionals had their monthly meeting at Papa Don’s.

The guest speakers for this meeting were High School students who attended the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Conference, affectionately referred to as, “HOBY.” Two students, Camden Stiles and Olivia Houston, were sponsored by Rotary and YPL, respectively.

The students spoke about their experiences last summer and demonstrated their enthusiasm for the program. Ms. Houston has applied and been accepted for ‘JStaff’ for next summer to help run the program. HOBY takes place during the first week of June on the Kansas State University Campus.

YPL President, Heather Griffith reported on activity YPL had been involved with and upcoming events. Some notable activities were hosting the Chamber coffee and assisting with Career Day at the High School.

Membership Dues are $35 per year and due April 1st. Don’t forget to check out their Facebook page and if you are interested in joining, please contact Heather Griffith: hgriffith@fscity.org

FSCC Host First Honor Band

Fort Scott, KS —

Michael Dzbenski, FSCC Band Director, launched a new outreach to area high schools this year. Last Friday, February 6th, over one hundred high school students descended upon the Fort Scott Community College campus.

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Music was sent out at the beginning of the year, high school students practiced on their own, came together and with only five hours of practice put on a free, open to the public concert.

With about 100 in the audience, we heard four selections performed by students from Erie, Humboldt, Southeast, Uniontown, Frontenac, Christian Heights and Girard.

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Auditions for FSCC Band Scholarships are February 27 and March 13. Students interested can contact Mr. Dzbenski, michaeld@fortscott.edu or 620-223-2700. Also, don’t forget to check out their Facebook page.

Open Letter to School Board

Open Letter from Mark Shead to USD234 School Board:

I shared some of the information in this letter at the last board meeting. However, there is an upper limit to how much can be conveyed in three minutes no matter how fast one talks. Hopefully this format with links to supporting materials will be a bit more effective at fostering the discussions on how technology can be used to create educational outcomes that will propel our community forward.

One-to-one devices

The first area I’d like to discuss is the idea of giving kids a one-to-one device–especially when the distribution of such a device becomes the goal rather than a particular program tied to a particular educational outcome.

In some of the discussions about the bond issue, I was told that there was a fear kids would somehow fall behind if they weren’t given some type of one-to-one device like a tablet or laptop. I wasn’t clear exactly what academic outcomes were thought to be in danger if gadgets aren’t deployed.

Simply giving kids computers has been tried in a number of large experiments with well documented results. In one of the largest randomized studies in the US researchers concluded, “we find no effects on any educational outcomes, including grades, test scores, credits earned, attendance and disciplinary actions.” In fact the only thing measured that was an “improvement” was simply the amount of time kids spent using a computer.

Another randomized study in Peru, showed some increases in Raven’s Matrix scores, but only for kids who didn’t have access to a computer previously. There was no increase to the sample as a whole. Worse, they found that having an individual device reduced the amount of time children spent reading books.

Uruguay made a country wide deployment of laptops to school children. There researchers were able to track test scores as laptops were rolled out from district to district. They said, that “the program had no effects on math and reading scores.” They pointed out that the use of laptops to do research on the Internet and to look up information didn’t provide any improvement over pre-laptop methods. (Uruguay Study)

As bad as those results sound (given the huge amount of money that was spent with no significant academic return on investment), two economists from Duke University tracked a million kids in North Carolina who were given computers and found, “Students who gain access to a home computer between the 5th and 8th grades tend to witness a persistent decline in reading and math scores.” Of particular interest for Fort Scott, they found that the negative effects were especially predominant among students from poor families. Also from that study (article about study), “The introduction of home computer technology is associated with modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores. Further evidence suggests that providing universal access to home computers and high‐speed internet access would broaden, rather than narrow, math and reading achievement gaps.”

I point out all these studies because it is important to see how easily huge sums of money can be spent with no academic benefit. This is especially true if decisions are being made based on “fear that students will fall behind without one-to-one devices” and the misconception that “exposing” kids to devices is somehow beneficial. (I’ll talk about exposure in a minute.) The actual evidence suggests that school systems should be more fearful about making huge investment in gadgets in ways that aren’t tied to programs designed to support specific educational goals. Worse than just being a waste, some of things schools are trying are actually creating negative outcomes. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use computers in education, but it does mean that you need to decide on the educational outcomes you want to achieve FIRST and then find programs that are getting those outcomes elsewhere. Once all that is in place you may find you need certain devices to reach your goal. Starting with the device and trying to work backwards to find educational outcomes that they can support has been a huge failure in every study I’ve seen where that has been tried.

“Exposure” Theory of Technology Education

The second thing I kept hearing is that USD234 needs to “expose” kids to technology. While technology can be a beneficial thing when used correctly (and the previously mentioned studies show that it can be easy to get wrong), it is a bit of a stretch to think that giving every kid a computer merely so they can be “exposed” to it is going to help kids academically. There are some good ways technology can be used for education, but becoming skilled at technology isn’t like catching chickenpox.

Consider the following: Lets say you decided that the school system really needs kids prepared to go into the medical field. So you go look at doctors and see that they wear lab coats and carry stethoscopes. In an effort to “expose” kids to the medical field, you give all the students lab coats and stethoscopes to carry around. Now perhaps you’d inspire kids to think about the medical field, but the academic benefit of carrying around a stethoscope is nothing. So what should you do if you want kids prepared for the medical field? Have them focus on biology, chemistry, algebra, calculus, and physics. In other words, having them focus on mastering existing high school classes is going to be much more important than trying to “expose” them to the tools that doctors happen to use.

In addition, most of the devices that are easy to manage in a classroom are specifically designed to insulate the user from the technology that makes it work. Chromebooks and iPads are designed for people with no experience with technology to be able to easily use. You may be able to run a good curriculum on the device, but merely using the device isn’t going to teach you anything substantial about how computers work because all of that is hidden away.

If you want kids to actually learn technology, they need to be able to do all the stuff that Chromebooks and iPads are designed to hide. There are programs that do this. For example Cisco’s Network Academy for high school students. Also old desktop computers and networking gear are probably some of the best pieces of equipment to really learn about how technology works if you have a good teacher and curriculum.

There may be some amazing things you can do with giving kids their own devices (assuming you are careful enough to avoid all the negative problems mentioned previously), but “exposure” is not an educational plan.

Managing Technology Lifecycle and Funding

The third thing I want to address is technology management. Back in the mid 90s, there were several school systems that passed long term bonds to buy computers. When I work with businesses to establish technology management plans, I use that as an example and it nearly always elicits a laugh because it is so intuitively unsustainable. From there it prompts a good discussion about how the business needs to approach and budget for their technology lifecycle.

I’ve talked to a local teacher who claims that the school is still using all the computers that were purchased 25 years ago and suggested simply issuing another bond whenever you need to replace computers was a good financial management strategy. This made me realize that it may not be common knowledge just how long computers are expected to be useable. Just for reference 25 years ago is when the 486 was selling for around $10,000 to $30,000 (double those amounts if you want to know what it would have been in today’s dollars) and the Pentium had yet to be invented. Schools would have been purchasing 8088, 286 or maybe 386 hardware running at 25 Mhz. (That is 40 times slower than a typical smart watch today.) If USD234 just finished up the last payment on a bond that a previous board had used to buy computers 25 years ago, would you be praising your predecessor’s financial genius? Could you imagine paying interest for the last 25 years on the purchase price of a 25 Mhz computer that hadn’t been used for the last 17 to 20 years?

Maybe you can get school computers to last 3 to 7 years with a few outliers on either side of that. Maybe devices used in the classroom will only last 2 to 3 years on average. (Take a look at the wear and tear on three year old textbooks for a quick guestimate.) Please don’t use money that the community will be paying interest on for 25 years to buy something that is only going to last 2 to 7 years. In simple terms, you really need to think of your computers as an ongoing expense and budget for them the same way you do for electricity and water. Maybe you can get your all-in costs for student computers down to $75 per device per semester. Costs have come down enough that it might be possible. The point is, that when considering technology you need to be looking at those yearly numbers to make decisions and not spending bond money on technology that has no chance of being used for more than a fraction of the bond payment period.

Studying Computer Science

The final area I’d like to address is preparing students to be able to enter the field of computer science. A lot of stuff gets lumped into computer science. Just to be clear computer science isn’t about plugging computers in or knowing how to use Excel and Word. Computer science is a branch of mathematics and isn’t about computers any more than astronomy is about telescopes.

If you want kids to do well in computer science courses in college, having them focus on algebra, calculus, statistics, probability, and discrete math (if it is offered) is going to give you much greater returns than having them carry a computer around. That isn’t to say there aren’t some great things you can do with a computer, but if you have to choose between spending an extra $150 per year per student on a computer, repair, software, etc. vs. spending that on getting great math results, math is a better overall investment–and not just for people going into computer science.

You’ll find a number of very successful computer scientists in Silicon Valley send their kids to schools that specifically avoid technology in the classroom.  (With limited use as creation tools when they get to high-school.) They aren’t trying to keep their kids away from computer science (see this video). They just know that the focus in high school is on getting kids to think and master high school subjects as the foundation of what they will choose to study in college. Technology can often be an impediment to and distraction from that goal rather than an enabler.

If you do want to teach computer science concepts in high school, the programs that seem to be working well are the ones that integrate it into the math curriculum. For example the Bootstrap World program has a free curriculum being taught in New York and other places that is having a lot of success in using a simple programming language to teach algebra concepts. The curriculum is free, but there is a two day training in New York at the end of February aimed at teaching math teachers how to use it. Also in March there is a meeting of the Special Interest Group in Computer Science Education being held in Kansas City.  The creators of the curriculum are going to present their preliminary findings.  There are of course other successful programs out there, but this is the only one I know of where we could invest 1.5 hours of drive time and get a chance to talk to its creators.

So in summary:

  1. One-to-one devices need to be driven by educational goals not the other way around.
  2. Exposure to technology isn’t an educational plan.
  3. Don’t pay for things over  a period that is longer than their expected life.
  4. Students that want to study computer science in college will be best prepared by investing in math skills.

The community is going to be paying on the bond for the next 25 years. Hopefully the information and links in this letter will do a small part toward creating useful discussion. Hopefully that discussion will lead to decisions that can give Fort Scott the strongest possible academic foundation as we head toward 2040.

Sincerely,

Mark Shead