Katherine Benefield, candidate for the Hamilton County School Board, District 1, is stressing the need for advanced technology and vocational education in county schools.
She said, “In this crucial time of major advances in technology, the Board must make decisions about high tech issues that are my native language. Superintendent Rick Smith assured the County Commission that we will be adopting eBooks and abandoning printed format books. But eBook licensing is very complicated, with considerations such as: Do you have the right to give a student a new laptop when his breaks and just reload his books, or do you have to pay for separate licenses for a re-configuration? Will a licensed eBook pass to the next year student, as print books do? There is a glut of misinformation in educational technology like this and innocent mistakes can lead to disastrous expense.
The board needs someone able to inject the important questions and considerations. I am that person.
“Further, our teachers have new technology in their buildings, but haven’t received the necessary training and support to implement many of the options. Technology is only 30 percent procurement. It’s 70 percent training and support if you want it to be effective. Our past purchases have far too often simply gone unused.”
She said vocational education is another key issue in her platform. “This next year’s budget allocates only $8 million to district-wide vocational education,” she pointed out. “The companies new to our region are telling us, ‘We need a skilled workforce’ - and workers are being imported to fill the need. Focus needs to shift to more vocational emphasis and job training opportunities, not the bare maintenance of existing programs. Students who are engaged in real, meaningful activities don’t drop out as often or fall prey as frequently to destructive leisure activities. For example, Sequoyah High School could be a burgeoning complex, and should be.
“Through my woman-owned business, I was one of the first web designers and consultants in our area, and later, a network contractor. I was a member of the Chattanooga Chamber, the Chattanooga Technology Council and part of early Chattanooga Sustainable Community Initiatives. Strong orientation and familiarity with high tech and big business needs and practices is critical now more than ever. Executives get things done, and do so diplomatically so that time and effort aren’t wasted,” the mother of six grown children, all of whom attended Soddy Daisy public schools.
“Hamilton County is 576 square miles. I’ve spent the last 15 years traveling to all of our school and administrative sites supporting technology for both the departments of Information Services and Exceptional Education,” the candidate said. “This experience has provided the opportunity to see where No Child Left Behind was deficient. Our students aren’t widgets, and shouldn’t be treated with ‘one size fits all’ educational opportunities. And each school board member not only represents his or her district, but also has responsibilities for all the children in the school system. I am the candidate who can lead the Board into the future, not keep it mired in the past.”