By JENNIFER L. SAUNDERS
Democrat Staff Writer
KITTERY, Maine ó Shapleigh Middle School hosted a special
guest Thursday as Gov. Angus King spoke with students about
the key role they play in making the laptop initiative a
"The whole world is watching you today," King told the
sixth- through eighth-grade students after the greeted him
with a standing ovation in the gymnasium Thursday morning.
Kingís plan to supply every seventh-grade student in the
state with a Macintosh I-book computer has come to fruition,
with the laptops going into the classrooms this fall.
Although he has been praised by educators for endorsing the
plan to use surplus budget money in 1999 toward the program,
King was quick to say he did not do it alone. He praised the
Maine Legislature for its support, and introduced Sen. Ken
Lemont, R-Kittery, and Rep. Stephen Estes, D-Kittery, who were
in attendance with many Kittery School Committee members and
Commissioner of Education J. Duke Albanese.
King praised Estes, in particular, for his efforts on the
Legislatureís Education Committee. He also expressed
appreciation for The Gates Foundation, MBNA and National
Semiconductor for contributing a combined $2.5 million in
funding and training support to the laptop initiative. And
while King spoke with enthusiasm about the world of
opportunities computers will open for students, he was quick
to point out there are dangers.
"You have a real responsibility here because if you misuse
them, this wonít keep going," he said.
Currently, King said funding is in place to expand the
program for all seventh- and eighth-graders in 2003. After
that, however, he said, it will be up to a new governor and
Legislature to decide how to handle the program.
"There are a lot of people who donít think this is such a
good idea ... They think Iím nuts," he told the students, and
then urged them to prove the nay-sayers wrong in the year
King spoke of the importance of having goals, going on to
higher education and using computers as the tools to access
information and attain those goals.
"The whole idea of this is to give you the key to the 21st
century ... Itís opening the door for you to information," he
However, King stressed, the computers are only as good as
the people who will be using them.
"This is about helping the teachers to get you to learn.
The teachers and you, acting as partners, are whatís going to
make this work," he said.
Superintendent of Schools Larry Littlefield and Shapleigh
Principal Greg Goodness urged their students to recognize the
meaning behind Kingís decision to visit Kittery.
"Youíre the reason the governor is here today ... There are
hundreds of schools that have laptops just like ours, but the
governor chose Shapleigh Middle School," Littlefield told the
Shapleigh Middle School served as one of nine "exploration
schools" in the state to test the laptop initiative during the
spring. Seventh-grade teacher Mark Gunter is a Regional
Integration Mentor for teachers in other area schools.
Democrat Staff Writer Jennifer L. Saunders can be reached
at 1-207-363-4413, or firstname.lastname@example.org