Rogersville City School investing heavily in technology, STEM

Jeff Bobo • May 11, 2017 at 8:30 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Expenditures at the Rogersville City School are projected to increase by $350,000 in the 2017-18 fiscal year thanks mainly to an increase in technology spending and the implementation of a new STEM curriculum from kindergarten through eighth grade.

School Director Rebecca Isaacs told the Board of Education Tuesday that aside from investing heavily in technology and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), the proposed budget also provides a 3 percent raise for faculty and staff.

The BOE agreed Tuesday to include Isaacs among those receiving the 3 percent raise as well.

Despite the added expenditures, the 2017-18 budget requires using only $144,538 in savings to balance. Isaacs said increased enrollment this year translated to increased state funding for 2017-18, which helped offset much of the higher expenditures.

Among those increases was the addition of a teaching position to replace longtime fifth grade teacher Jennifer Ewing, who has become the RCS STEM teacher and technology trainer.

Ewing will be in charge of directing STEM instruction and incorporating it into the classroom curriculum as well as training teachers how to use technology as a learning tool in the classroom.

RCS’s $5.772 million budget will go before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for the first of three required readings during a special called meeting on May 23 at 10 a.m. at City Hall.

Assuming the budget achieves final approval, RCS will be able to complete its One-to-One initiative, which provides every student from kindergarten through eighth grade with an electronic learning aid.

“Currently each of our students fifth through eighth grades has a Dell laptop, and our third and fourth grade students have an iPad,” Isaacs told the Times-News Tuesday. “With this budget, we’re continuing that One-to-One initiative by purchasing iPads for all of our K-2 students. Additionally, we’re going to be providing STEM in our related arts rotation, so all of our students K-8 will be having STEM instruction.”

She added, “Our big challenge this summer will be making the schedule and adding another related arts, but we’re so excited about that. If you wait until high school to introduce kids to STEM, you’re missing a lot of opportunity. We’re talking about problem solving. We’re talking about building. We’re talking about teamwork. We’re talking about girls knowing that they have every opportunity to become scientists in any of the STEM careers that boys do.”

Isaacs told the BOE that this is a historic moment in the history of RCS, and future generations of students will benefit from the STEM programming approved by the board Tuesday.

“Part of this is still in development, but the passion is there, the commitment is there, and your commitment is the last step.”

Ewing admitted to the board that she is a technology and science “nerd” and being named to shepherd RCS’s new STEM program is a dream job.

“I’m a product of Rogersville City School, my kids attended Rogersville City School, and my granddaughter will start here in the fall, so this is very personal to me, this opportunity for our students to be exposed to these disciplines,” Ewing said. “Especially engineering. That’s something that’s really going to be pushed in the next few years, so I’m excited about the opportunity to do this. I’ve got tons and tons of ideas.”