CALCASIEU PARISH, La. (KPLC) - Just nine weeks ago Sam Houston High School launched it’s Bring Your Own Device program at school, allowing cell phones on campus and in the classrooms after the Calcasieu Parish School Board approved it in their July meeting.
At Tuesday night’s CPSB meeting, Sam Houston High Principal Shannon Foolkes, along with several students and a teacher, spoke on how the program has been going.
“It’s no secret that Louisiana is behind in the integration of technology in our classroom," Stephen Davis, a Sam Houston High School student said Tuesday night. "So speaking from a student’s perspective this change was for the better.”
“I think that the education system needs to mold to the changing of our generation and I think this is the first step.” Erin Halliburton, a student at Sam Houston High School said.
“Cell phone violations; that’s a decrease of 81%," Principal Foolkes said. "Continued open defiance 47% decrease. Disrespect for authority 43% decrease, Classroom disturbances 40% decrease, Also our ISI down 48%. I know one of your concerns was tardies. Look at our tardies. Yes, it’s an 8% increase, but if you look at the raw numbers, it’s two kids from last year to this year. Out of school suspensions is an 8% decrease. Attendance, and I am looking at this year compared to last year, our attendance is up by 12%. Referrals are down by 20%, in-class referrals are down by 25%.”
Foolkes did mention that two teachers at Sam Houston High do not want to participate in the BYOD program. Foolkes says that is ok and that students who try to use cell phones in that class receive a cell phone violation.
Several other high schools requested to adopt their own BYOD programs at the meeting: Iowa, Westlake, Sulphur, Barbe, LaGrange, and DeQuincy.
“I’m going to read a section of board policy to you that you have passed,” Iowa High School Principal Patrick Fontenot said while addressing the board. “It says the Calcasieu Parish School Board recognizes the importance of incorporating current technology tools including new methods of electronic communication in the classroom to enhance student learning. It further recognizes the importance of students, faculty, and parents engaging, learning, collaborating and sharing in digital environments a part of the 21st-century learning. The Calcasieu Parish School Board strives to ensure that electronic communication tools incorporated into the school curriculum are used responsibly and safely. That’s what we intend to do.”
Mack Dellafosse, CPSB District 7, made a motion to have the plans for each of the schools’ BYOD programs be made available to the board for review before moving forward.
“We all know not every school is the same and what it took for Ms. Foolkes to get her program together and to get it running like it is so I’m pretty sure it took some time to develop QR codes and getting stuff from your teachers so I would want them to have a plan before we give this to all the schools,” Dellafosse said. “I think it has come to that point in time where we are fighting a losing battle with our cell phone policy. But just to say let’s just give them cell phones with no plan I am not supporting that.”
Eric Tarver, CPSB District 8, widely praised the program but also said he had a few concerns.
“When you start using it so much, what do you do when technology doesn’t work?” Tarver asked. “The more you use your tech, the more reliant you are of it, and the more helpless you are when it goes down. Another concern that was not specifically addressed was that we know at Sam Houston it is going great. I do not know if I am sufficiently convinced that we are ready to go out and do six more of these and have them go well because I am not saying it has not been done, but I have not necessarily seen the evidence that that level of preparation that has been done at those schools. It’s not so much a fear, I am very much in favor of this, but it cannot be allowed to not go well.”
The school board decided to approve the schools requesting their own BYOD programs to submit plans to the board before January, as well as begin to inform parents and guardians they are looking to do the program. The board says depending on the plans, they will select which schools can move forward with their own programs come January.