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INFORMATIONAL LETTER NO.  135

POLICY CODE:  IHAJ

 

 

TO:                  Superintendents (Please forward to high school principals, school board chairs, and technology coordinators)

 

FROM:            Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner

 

DATE:             June 11, 2004

 

RE:                   Update on MLTI Proposal for Maine High Schools

 

            In recognition of the critical importance of keeping you informed on MLTI discussions, I am providing the following details.  However, as I note below, we will have much more to discuss at the upcoming Commissioner’s Conference on June 20-22, 2004 in Bar Harbor.

 

            Here, in short, are the latest developments:

 

§         Governor Baldacci has directed the Department to explore every possible avenue to move the MLTI project forward for next year’s 9th graders.  Despite the recent identification of a number of imposing obstacles, the Governor’s direction is to leave no stone unturned in our effort to implement the MLTI program, either statewide or in as many high schools as possible by school year 2004-05 even if full implementation is not achievable until school year 2005-06.

 

§         Department staff will be developing two types of plans to move the MLTI program forward:  (1) short-term actions to explore every possible solution to extending our current contract with Apple to achieve partial implementation for Fall of 2004; and (2) longer-term actions leading to a successful full expansion of the MLTI program from the Fall of 2005 and beyond.

 

§         Discussions have continued with Apple Computer to explore the limitations and opportunities at various levels of implementation.  Apple will continue to develop cost models based on levels of participation by local districts.  We will present the variables and potential solutions at the June 20-22 conference in hopes of securing commitments from a sufficiently large percentage of districts willing to move forward with implementation next year. 

 

§         Some districts have been planning to move forward on their own, whether or not a statewide program was accomplished. We anticipate that vendors will be contacting schools shortly.  Apple Computer will be sending letters to districts in the next few days describing a program for individual district purchasing of laptops.  Our intent is to develop a plan with Apple that will allow districts that choose to proceed immediately to fold their plans into a statewide plan without penalty.  If such districts wish to access Revolving Renovation Funds for wireless infrastructure purchases, Department staff members Scott Brown (scott.brown@maine.gov) and Jim Rier (jim.rier@maine.gov) will provide guidance on the status of the procedure for accessing these funds.  In addition, a workshop has been scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 22 immediately following the Commissioner’s Conference for superintendents who need technical assistance on a variety of issues related to MLTI implementation for the Fall of 2004. 

 

§          Important note:  If your district is considering Fall implementation and you will not be attending the Commissioner’s Conference, please contact Bette Manchester (bette.manchester@maine.gov) to ensure that the Department can best support your efforts.  We will be convening a one-day, drive-in workshop for such districts in the very near future; details will follow shortly.

             

            Evidence continues to mount on the value and success of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) for Maine’s middle school students.  Maine’s program not only leads the nation but is recognized worldwide for its innovative approach, providing powerful tools and resources for teaching and learning.

 

            The need to carry the program and benefits for student achievement into the high schools is without question.  Although much was done this last legislative session to accomplish that expansion into high schools, we were not successful in obtaining approval by the Legislature prior to adjournment.

 

            Soon after the session ended, Department staff began developing a plan to expedite a program for 9th grade students next year by using an approach that would provide a bridge, using available mechanisms and authority, to the eventual rollout of a full and comprehensive 9 through 12 program using the current Apple lease/purchase agreement used in the middle school implementation.

 

            The interim approach utilizes individual district applications to the Revolving Renovation Fund for the wiring of buildings, utilization of federal funds as I have previously identified, and a rental plan for the machines. 

 

            As noted before, in addition to addressing implementation issues for Fall of 2004, I have directed Department staff to develop a comprehensive long-term initiative for grades 9 through 12 that would be implemented in September 2005. This longer term plan will address the building of legislative, educator, and public support for the project and the financial details, to ensure a highly effective continuation of the statewide initiative.

 

            Both the short-term and the long-term plans will include:

 

§         Building toward eventual inclusion of MLTI program costs into the Essential Programs and Services model;

 

§         Developing specifications for wireless network installation to ensure compatibility of systems across the State;

 

§         Providing for timely, extensive, and sustained professional development as a critical component of the program; and

 

§         Assisting in the development of local policies to ensure that clear guidelines and protocols are in place when local implementation begins.

 

            Again, discussion of this topic will be included in our agenda for the Commissioner’s Conference in Bar Harbor.  In the meantime, if you have questions or concerns, do not hesitate contact any of the following Department staff for answers or clarification:

 

Bette Manchester         (bette.machester@maine.gov)

Jim Rier                        (jim.rier@maine.gov)

Tony Sprague               (tony.sprague@maine.gov)