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Hillsborough County School Board looks at personal computer use

TAMPA — A teacher sends out personal photos to friends during lunch, and uses a district computer to do it. Was it a harmless work break, or a destructive use of public property?

Maybe a bit of both, members of the Hillsborough County School Board concluded Tuesday.

Some teachers and staff members are "clogging up the system" sending massive files of photos and other documents to friends, said Paula Romano, a district technology specialist.

Such messages hog limited bandwidth. And when a computer can't send a big file on the first try, it will automatically keep on trying, making it harder for other users to conduct official business, said specialist Cliff Granger.

Board members struggled to strike the right balance during a workshop on policies governing technology, student testing and other issues.

Chairwoman Carol Kurdell cautioned against crafting a policy on teacher use of computers that made the district a less employee-friendly place to work.

"We're a very humanistic organization," she said. "It's very important, because people spend a large part of their life here. I'd be walking a real fine line on this one."

Sending a single baby photo or making a quick call home might be reasonable, some suggested.

But other members said the district needed to do a better job of setting clear limits for employees.

"We can't be touchy-feely and emphatic at the same time," said Doretha Edgecomb. "The system is being abused."

The board asked administrators to keep working on the issue, and to find a reasonable middle ground on the personal use of public resources.

By this fall, the district plans to issue a revised policy manual covering every aspect of running a 190,000-student school system. That provided board members with fertile ground for debate.

In the student assessment section, Jennifer Faliero was prompted to complain about "so many tests" and the potential for duplication of efforts. But Candy Olson saw a gap, with no measure of students' broad range of learning styles.

Several members urged the district to put more of its back-to-school paperwork online. But Edgecomb warned against reducing the flow of information for families without Internet access.

"There has to be a real balance between the haves and have-nots," she said. "We just can't take for granted that even those in the past who had (online access) still have it."

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3400.

Hillsborough County School Board looks at personal computer use 04/28/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 12:01am]
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