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Pinellas to send 11-member team to California



Pinellas Superintendent Julie Janssen, two school board members and nine other top district officials are headed to California tomorrow for a two-day "executive briefing" with Apple Inc.

The purpose: To meet with high-level Apple executives in Cupertino, Calif. to "learn how to better integrate technology into student learning to reach our academic goals," spokeswoman Andrea Zahn told The Gradebook in a written statement. Apple "will help district staff better support learning through digital content, e-books, e-content and digital outreach."

The cost: a little more than $1,000 per person for air fare, meals and lodging. The money is coming out of district training funds, Zahn said.

Board members discussed the trip at this morning's workshop, with member Linda Lerner raising concerns. Can't Apple's local representative meet with district staff about the latest technology? Can't the company do a video conference with Pinellas officials? "I can't believe they wouldn't have that," she said.

"I can't believe it either, but here's why," came the quick reply from John Just, assistant superintendent for technology.

Apple is worried about the leaking of trade secrets, and will make participants sign a non-disclosure agreement, he said. If information were shared in a video conference, "I think they're worried that you could possibly capture that, it could be put on a Web site somewhere," he said.

"They're going to ask for feedback and say, "Is this what you want as a school district?" Just continued. "They might talk about their iBook strategy. They might talk about their Kindle on the iPod strategy. They might talk about their content strategy and what they're going to do with BrainPOP and Flash."

Just also said the cost of the conference in California is comparable to the cost of similar tech conferences in Florida, because there is no conference cost with the Apple briefing. Plus, "we would not get access to the same professionals we're going to get access to," he said. Pinellas officials will be meeting with "their senior vice presidents, executive level folks, and to have that level of influence, and have that level of dialogue to learn from them, is very valuable and a good return on our investment."

Besides Janssen and Just, trip participants will be board members Carol Cook and Peggy O'Shea; deputy superintendent Jim Madden; regional superintendent Barbara Hires; Bill Lawrence, director of advanced studies; Valerie Brimm, director of strategic partnerships; Rita Vasquez, chief turnaround officer; Rob Ovalle, director of elementary education; and Sue Castleman, supervisor of visual arts.

Janssen said she'll making a half-hour presentation at the beginning of the briefing. "The workshop is designed around our needs," she said. "We need to know we're maximizing the equipment we bought."

[Last modified: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 3:38pm]


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