The River Region's Wave of the Future!
A project to completely equipt all three Wetumpka schools with the most technologically advanced “21st Century Classrooms” will make those schools leaders in the state, according to supporters of the initiative. Members of the Wetumpka City Council recently approved a $725,000 commitment to the program to be disbursed over seven years, with a local company matching the city’s contribution dollar-for-dollar.“This is a far-reaching project to put Wetumpka where we want it to be,” said Mayor Jerry Willis. “Quality learning and teaching have been going on in our schools, but this will take it to a new level.”Rep. Barry Mask, who is also executive director of the Elmore County Economic Development Authority, said the project will break new ground in the state.“Wetumpka will be the first place in Alabama to integrate the 21st Century Classroom vertically in every grade,” said Mask.Councilwoman Kathy Holt said she, along with the mayor, visited George Hall Elementary in Mobile as well as Winterboro to look at the technology programs on those campuses. Hall Elementary has been touted nationwide as an example of the progress that can be made through upgraded technology and intense teaching techniques.
“This is something we can do in Wetumpka to enhance the education of our children,” said Holt. “It will bring the level of our children’s technology education to the highest in the state and nation. It will bring in educators from across the country to see our program.“We can step forward and help our children; we can keep our city growing and competitive. But this project wouldn’t have been possible without discipline and budgeting by our city.”Councilman Lewis E. Washington Sr. said the money spent will bring a measurable return.“This is a very, very wise investment by the city,” he said. “It will result in more jobs for Wetumpka and for Elmore County. This is a great and historic day for our city. The sky is the limit.”Each 21st Century Classroom will be equipped with SMART boards, document cameras, wireless slates, laptops for teachers, student response units and amplified sound units.
The classrooms are expected to be operational by this fall.“Wetumpka began 83 million years ago with a giant boom,” said Councilman Ken Hammock. “Our future with this endeavor stands to be just as explosive. As a mayor and council we are doing things to move our city forward.”Councilman Chris Carter, who worked in the information technology field during his career with the Air Force, said technology is vital to a successful education today.“These children already probably know technology better than many adults,” he said. “We want to give them extra education support. We’re going to lead the way in this state.”Councilman Greg Jones seconded that assertion.
“We are interested in truly improving education in our city,” he said. “While others may have installed smart boards here and there, we are investing in all of our schools.”Information Technology Solutions, owned by Wetumpka resident Tomi Selby, will install the equipment and provide training and support for faculty.“The exciting thing is the City of Wetumpka is setting the standard for other cities,” said Selby. “This is positive for education, for economic development and for citizens. I think this is a historic moment.”Administrators at the three schools were equally enthusiastic, particularly Wetumpka High assistant principal Cindy Veazey who specializes in technology issues.“I don’t know if I can really tell you what this means,” she said. “We have really tried in the past few years to improve student achievement. We looked at other schools -- and the ones that improve the most successfully integrate technology.
“We always make AYP; we’ve always done well. Our schools in Wetumpka are good, but our vision is to move them from good to great.”Veazey said today’s students are typically technologically savvy when they enter kindergarten.“They already know technology; they use it in their lives every day,” she said. “They come to school wired up -- they are digital natives. We want them to learn to take that technology, analyze with it and apply it. Education has totally changed.”She pointed to Wetumpka High’s Freshman Academy, initiated during the past school year, as a shining example of the improvements technology can lead to in education.“In the academy, we have all 21st Century Classrooms,” said Veazey. “We reduced our class failures in ninth grade this year by 49 percent.
“We teach the teachers how to use it and embed it in every day lessons and curriculums. It’s a student engagement tool.”Wetumpka Elementary principal Kathy Willis and Wetumpka Middle principal Bessie Robinson also expressed their excitement and appreciation.“I am so grateful for what the council wants to do,” said Willis. “I can’t tell you how much it will mean to the students in Wetumpka.”Robinson said she, too, visited George Hall Elementary in Mobile and was so impressed that she returned to Wetumpka and began a campaign to raise funds to equip additional 21st Century Classrooms at her school.“We had four and we raised enough money to equip 18 more,” said Robinson. “I wasn’t waiting around to see if we would get money from someone else. Now with this we will have all of them done.“I have family in the area where George Hall is located and I know how challenging it is. If what they did there can make that big a difference, I want it for my students. I’m excited about this and my teachers are all excited, too.”During Tuesday’s press conference to announce the project, Elmore County Superintendent of Education Jeff Langham was on hand via electronic connection from a statewide education conference.“I am grateful to the City of Wetumpka’s officials for the powerful commitment you have made to truly transform these schools,” he said. “I am thrilled by the multi-year financial commitment from the city and its corporate sponsor to help three schools enhance student achievement through the use of technology. This project promises to help our school system make a quantum leap into meeting the needs of students.”Council members said the commitment to technology in Wetumpka schools will enhance the city’s attraction for technology industries as well. Wetumpka has an undeveloped technological park located on Alabama Highway 14 near the old Russell Yarns complex.“I think this partnership will help us close the deal on some industrial prospects we have and I know it will continue to be a selling point for families who wish to move to an area that is stepping up big-time for education,” said Mask. “This definitely strengthens my hand as an economic developer.”
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