Bishop High School Foundation For Excellence members receive an introduction to the Promethean Smart Board by teacher Stacy Van Nest. Photo by Charles James
Since 1985, a group of concerned local business leaders in Bishop have worked to support the educational needs of Bishop Union High School. According to the group‚Äôs president, Wendy Duncan, for the past 27 years the Foundation for Excellence has worked hard, with the support of the community, to raise funds to benefit the needs of the teachers and students at the school.
According to Duncan, the work of the foundation is especially important today.
‚ÄúWith current state budget cuts our schools have been hit very hard and there is a lack of funding for updating, maintaining and purchasing needed equipment,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúCurrently the foundation‚Äôs focus is to raise $50,000 to modernize the classrooms through state-of-the-art electronic instructional equipment and the purchase of 36 computers for an all new computer lab. This is a very important project that will enable the students graduating from BUHS to be competitive with all other graduates as they move on to college and the workplace.‚ÄĚ
In the past 10 years alone, the Foundation for Excellence has funded the refurbishment of the school library and the purchase of library books and videos, purchased uniforms for the band and provided new supplemental educational curriculums. They also purchased calculators for calculus classes and provided support and tools for a host of other programs.
They have also increasingly provided support for important education technology by funding electronic classrooms that offer greater access to multimedia content and give the school the ability to make increasing use of online courses for classes that would otherwise be unavailable to local students. In addition to the learning opportunities for students, there is also the added benefit to school staff and teachers for professional development.
Representatives of the foundation said the group recognizes that rural development and education in the 21st century will be closely tied to the effective use of new and emerging information technologies. The educational framework offered by these technologies offer unique solutions to the ongoing problems of declining enrollments and limited course offerings often found in rural schools.
As Bishop High School vice-principal, David Kalk, a key figure working with the foundation to assess the technology needs and keep things moving along, said, ‚ÄúThe foundation‚Äôs recent focus has been on providing new technology to classrooms that engages students in ways in which they can relate. Interactive whiteboards and learner response systems are currently a luxury that districts just cannot afford. The foundation has been instrumental in keeping BUHS moving forward in that capacity to allow us to meet the evolving learning needs of our current and future students.‚ÄĚ
He went on to say that, ‚Äúwithout its financial support, and that of the community who step up for their fundraising efforts, we would have a school full of classrooms that looked a lot like they did 20 or 30 years ago.‚ÄĚ
Noting that engaging students in the classroom has become increasingly more challenging with the advent of iPods, Kindles and smart phones, Kalk went on to say that the manner in which teachers deliver their curriculum needs to match the manner in which students learn and remain engaged in today‚Äôs world. He noted that students in today‚Äôs classroom have grown up in a completely different era technologically and it is important to recognize their needs are different than those of students even 10 or 15 years ago. By connecting to those needs, he says, residents will see an increase in students‚Äô academic achievement.
Why is new technology becoming so critical in schools, especially rural ones? One of the best examples is its use to meet the needs of Advanced Placement programs at many schools. These programs offer standardized college courses offered to high school students. They are equivalent to undergraduate courses in college and are increasingly offered through the Internet ‚Äď not just on the high school campus any longer ‚Äď off campus as well. Successful AP students are often exempted from introductory course work once they graduate high school and leave to attend college. In many cases, they are also granted college credit for AP courses taken while still in high school, which shortens the time they must spend in college and lowers costs.
School officials said new technologies in e-learning also allow the collection of better educational data as well, which is important in gauging the success of schools and students. Data allows school administrators and educators to better address issues and problems found in today‚Äôs schools. Using digitally collected information, educators can better plan how to approach improvements in the future. Because not all students learn at the same rate or even the same way, educators can offer the individual student personalized programs that can best meet his or her needs.
School administrators say that perhaps the most valuable benefit of e-learning in the future is its potential to deliver high-quality educational materials and programs to all learners regardless of where they live, the diversity of their family or cultural backgrounds and any disabilities which might otherwise be beyond the local educational institution‚Äôs ability to provide either because of cost, lack of opportunity, or resources.
Those who support the program say that e-learning offers the best chance for universal opportunity to access high-quality educators for all children by providing access to equipment and to the Internet both during and after-school. It has been proven in several studies that technology makes a difference in improving test scores and helping students reach performance goals.
The research shows that technology engages students in learning; improves attendance, decreases dropout rates, increases graduation rates and facilitates parent involvement, solving many of the problems found today with traditional learning.
Duncan, the president for the Foundation for Excellence, wanted to make it clear just how grateful they are for community support and donations. She noted that they are a small board of only nine members, and they are always looking for energetic, enthusiastic, hard working people to join them in helping to educate the leaders of tomorrow.
Anyone who is interested in becoming more involved with the Foundation for Excellence is encouraged to call (760) 873-4431 or visit www.savorthesierra.com.