Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Students, administrators and parents gather around new laptops provided to students in the Decatur City Schools IB program after they were presented by Superintendent Sam Houston and the Decatur City Schools Foundation.
Computers of their own
Decatur Schools Foundation buys laptops for IB Diploma students
By Bayne Hughes
email@example.com · 340-2432
Decatur's International Baccalaureate Diploma Program students are going mobile with their studies.
No longer will the Austin and Decatur high school juniors be stuck in their rooms or forced to share a home computer with their families.
Using money raised through the Decatur City Schools Foundation, the school system bought a Dell Latitude 131L laptop computer for each of the 12 students in the program. Future IB Diploma students also will get laptops.
The $1,000 computers feature wireless Internet access and Microsoft Office Professional. Each student gets to use a laptop for the two years of the program and then return it at graduation.
Decatur High student Hannah Smith's eyes glimmered as she thought of not having to share a computer with her sister, Sarah, a freshman involved in the school's pre-IB program.
David Burt said he looks forward to seeing his daughter, Hannah Burt, a little more. Since she joined the Austin program, he said, she's stuck in her room studying. Hannah Burt said the laptop will be handy when she starts her research paper.
Decatur High student Elizabeth Gross said the laptops will be great for team projects. IB requires some two-member projects. The laptops will allow one student to write a report while the other works on a PowerPoint presentation.
The students are excited that the computers include programs like PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, Excel and an American history program, but they're disappointed that the school system's filtering software denies them access to Wikipedia.org, an online encyclopedia that allows users to contribute to its entries.
Superintendent Sam Houston said the idea for the laptops came out of a 90-minute meeting he had with the students.
"I asked them if there was anything the school system and community could do to support them, and all but one said they would like to have access to a laptop for their research and studies," Houston said.
So, Houston turned to two experienced fundraisers he knew could help fulfill that request: Dr. George Hansberry and Decatur Daily Editor and Publisher Barrett C. Shelton Jr.
The two are so experienced at fundraising that they've developed a tried and true strategy.
First, they and school officials developed a list of 100 community leaders and others they thought would support the program and could afford contributing $1,000 each. Then Shelton, Hansberry, businessman Frank Price, Houston, school board member Karen Duke, Assistant Superintendent Ed Nichols and Curriculum Director Jeanne Payne made conference calls in teams of three for each name on the list.
The response was just short of amazing. Out of 90 calls made so far, they have not had a rejection. Some contributed more than the request. The tally is up to $96,000.
"And we're not finished yet," Hansberry said.
Hansberry said the goal is to raise enough money to establish a laptop purchase program and help any student who wants to be in IB but can't afford the program's fees.
Austin Principal Don Snow said the computers are a boost for IB students, some of whom are struggling to meet the curriculum's demands. Austin had 10 students in the program to start the year but is down to three. Snow said he hopes to have 30 in the program next year.
Decatur High has nine IB Diploma students, and school officials are also expecting a major growth spurt in the second year.
"This tells the students that the school system and the community are behind them and really support the program. That's something they needed to hear," Snow said.
Save $84.50 a year off our newsstand price:
Subscribe today for only 38 cents a day!