In late March, members of the Belleville Education Association once again packed a board of education meeting. This time they weren’t concerned about themselves. They were concerned about the lack of educational supplies and up-to-date technology needed to ensure their students had a quality educational experience.
The Belleville board of education’s decision to fund a $2 million surveillance system has drawn fire for its failure to acknowledge that students are lacking even the most basic classroom supplies, including pencils, paper, and district-approved textbooks, while still failing to provide the technology necessary to keep students competitive.
“Not only are our district schools lacking in the tools our students need to become 21st-century ready,” said Michael Dias, BEA’s communications chair. “But the equipment we do have is inoperable, mismatched, and downright antiquated.”
To prove their point, the BEA conducted an on-site districtwide survey of the technology and associated equipment to get a handle on the full scope of the problem and presented their findings at the board meeting.
What they found was that the issue was bigger than imagined: district elementary schools lacked consistency in the type of equipment each had access to, teachers were using their personal computers to conduct lessons, Smart Boards that some classrooms did have were either not working or lacked parts necessary to operate them, and the amount of IT work requests—many of which went unanswered for months—nearly reached the triple-digit mark.
Some classroom computers are so old they still require floppy disks.
“This is nothing short of a disgrace,” Dias continued. “There’s simply no excuse for dragging our feet any longer. Belleville’s children deserve better.”
To ensure that all stakeholders would have access to their findings and to hold the board publicly accountable, the BEA compiled their results school by school and posted them on their association website. Dias assured the board that the BEA is committed to monitoring any progress that is made and will update the online postings as items are addressed and problems corrected. However, he also assured them that the BEA would not shy away from this effort.
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—it’s time to stop turning a blind eye to this problem and instead, work together to ensure we are united in our efforts for a better Belleville,” Dias declared.