Proposed School Budget Paves Way for More Digital Learning

The woman who heads up instruction for Loudoun’s school system has some new ideas in mind for next year.

During a Loudoun County School Board budget work session last night, Assistant Superintendent Cynthia Ambrose outlined the portion of the school system’s proposed $1.124 billion budget that she is in charge of.

For next fiscal year, her department is requesting $650,587 million, $51.25 million (8.2 percent) more than the current fiscal year. But much of that increase is tied to enrollment growth. By this fall, the school system is expected to grow by almost 3,000 and reach a total student population of 81,622.

Aside from serving more students, Ambrose wants to earmark more money to pave the way for more digital devices in the classroom and to make big strides toward setting up the Academies of Loudoun, which is slated to open in 2018.

On technology, Ambrose wants to restructure the job of technology assistants, training them to take care of routine tech support and troubleshooting in the schools. This would free up technology resource teachers to focus more on instruction, a must as the school division moves toward every student having access to a digital device in the classroom. It would also move them up two rings on the salary scale, to a starting rate of $14.73 per hour and as much as $32.25 per hour.

Technology assistant positions were created in 2004, Ambrose noted, when students did not use phones or tablets as part of instruction. “And at that time you didn’t have adaptive digital content like you have today.”

With an eye on more digital learning, Ambrose also wants to repurpose several positions. For example, the position of online librarian would change to digital resource specialist, and an English specialist position would change to a textbooks/digital resources and student publications specialist.

“This is part of our effort is to get better communication. We need specific contacts for digital resources,” Ambrose said. “So teachers in the schools know who to call if they have a question.”

Instruction Department’s fiscal year 2018 plan also calls for:

  • Eight new positions for Academies of Loudoun (one Academy of Engineering and Technology director, six teachers, one secretary).
  • One new position to support and provide expertise to secondary drama programs.
  • The use of existing funds to map out and streamline computer science curriculum from elementary through high school.
  • One new teaching position at Douglass School, Loudoun’s alternative secondary school. Ambrose said the school system has seen an increase in special education students and students needing to make up credits in time for graduation.
  • Expanding the young adult English Language Learners program, from serving nine students in the evening to creating day courses to serve as many as 40 students.
  • $2 million to update textbooks. Some of the textbooks are a decade or more old, according to Ambrose. It will take several years to fully update the school system’s books, since funding in this area has not kept pace with enrollment growth, Ambrose said. “But this chips away at it.”

Superintendent Eric Williams presented his recommended operating budget last week, kicking off Loudoun County’s four-month budget season. The School Board will continue going over the details of Williams’ proposal in work sessions ahead of adopting a final plan Feb. 2. The budget is then sent to the county Board of Supervisors as a funding request. Supervisors are scheduled to adopt their budget April 4.

The School Board will hold two public hearings: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at the school system administration building, 21000 Education Court in Ashburn.

One thought on “Proposed School Budget Paves Way for More Digital Learning

  • 2017-01-18 at 8:56 pm

    I would like to have a BMW 7 series, Bentley, and some other expensive luxury car. Unfortunately, I cannot afford all of them on my budget. However, a Ford, Dodge, or a Subaru all have four wheels and are capable of getting me from point a to point b.

    My point is that this budget haas all sorts of bells and whistles that are “nice to haves”. But are they critical to learning and education? The answer is no. The school budget needs to be scaled back as it is like a disease – – without treatment it will only grow and get worse.

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