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Community energizes district with technology

CARNATION—In May voters said "nay" to the Riverview

School District's technology levy, but that didn't stop parents from stocking

their children's classrooms with computers.

"We have a fair amount of parents in the high tech industry who

won't wait around," said Paul Censullo, the district's technology specialist.

Instead, several parent-driven groups have organized themselves

to provide new computers and programs to supplement the district's 600 units.

"There's so much happening with technology and education … we

need to give that opportunity to our students," Censullo said.

Thirteen Microsoft families took advantage of their company's

matching gift program and provided the district with more than $100,000

worth of Microsoft products. Unfortunately, not all of the schools' computers

can support some of the newer software products. But Censullo said all of

the schools would benefit from the donation in some way.

Carnation Elementary was also the recipient of a community-led

donation. The PTSA, ASB and residents of the Carnation Meadows

subdivision supplied the school with 22 new computers this year.

After the levy failed in the spring, many people wanted to pull their

children out of the district, said PTSA President Chuck Johnson. But the

parents soon decided that if the district couldn't provide up-to-date

technology, they would equip their children's classrooms with new computers

themselves.

"You can sit around and gripe or stand up and do something," he

said. "I want to motivate people that if they come together, things get done."

"I was excited," said Principal Jim Jordan of the donation. "We're

falling behind and we need to keep up. This will help us tremendously."

"It's not the answer or solution to the technology levy, but it's an

excellent step in the right direction," he added.

Stillwater Elementary's PTA faced a similar technology situation.

Parent Dan Mahowald was put in charge of finding a way to bring technology

to the Lower Valley.

"I want to create a foundation that partners with the business

community in this region," he said. "And get

these businesses to partner with us and help us raise funds to support

comprehensive, long-term technology in our schools."

The foundation's first project is to provide a new computer lab for

Tolt Middle School, which is one of the district's top priorities.

In addition to receiving funds from area businesses, Mahowald wants

to create a "mentorship" program so that high school students can get a feel

for the technology world.

"To be competitive, you need to have fundamental technology

skills," he said. "It's the way we

communicate. Every company has a Web site and business is being done

electronically now."

Donations from parents and community groups will only provide a

limited amount of technology for the district. So the technology steering

committee approached the board of directors recently and asked them to

consider a two-year, $796,000 technology levy. In May, the district ran a

$3.9 million, six-year levy, which only received a 56 percent "yes" vote.

The measure needed 60 percent to pass.

"For a lot of people it was a money issue," Censullo said of why the

levy failed. "But zero money gets us nowhere."

The proposed levy would pay for a computer for every classroom, a

new lab in each school, and training for staff members, Censullo added.

"This is a core proposal — it's

not complete. But it'll get us started."

The board is tentatively scheduled to vote in December whether they

will run the technology levy again next February.

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