LAFAYETTE — The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce has volunteered to review the technology capabilities of the Lafayette Parish School System.
“I asked the chamber to do this peer review and help us get an idea of what a 21st-century school district would need to look like in terms of technology,” Superintendent Pat Cooper said Friday.
The district’s own review earlier this spring showed a need to “shore up” its technology plan, especially to prepare for new state mandates like online student testing, Cooper said.
That review, conducted by task forces organized as part of the new superintendent’s transition into the district, showed that a “more enhanced technology system” is needed to move toward online testing and a system to replace older technology is needed, he said.
“We also understood we were woefully short in our ability to put technology in the classroom,” Cooper said. “We have to have a system of replacing our computers. We didn’t have that system in place.”
Cooper said he asked the chamber for its help because of its prior experience analyzing district functions nearly 10 years ago. Then-Superintendent James Easton requested the chamber review technology and other operations, such as transportation and human resources. The chamber offered recommendations, some of which are still in place — such as a chief information officer position.
Jerry Greig, the chamber’s chairman, said the committee of volunteers plans to report its findings by the first quarter of 2013, so the district can use the information as it prepares its budget for the 2013-14 school year.
As part of its technology review during Easton’s tenure, about 400 man hours were expended and the chamber also involved parents and community members during “Net Day” events to help run networking cable to classrooms at nine schools, Greig said.
The experience benefited the schools and helped bond the business community to the school system, he said.
Greig said work has begun to identify information technology professionals among its membership who could be interested in the technology review. The first committee meeting could be held later this month, he said.
The chamber’s review is timely as districts across the state prepare to meet technology readiness guidelines to implement online student testing in 2014-15.
Based on the state’s suggested guidelines, only two districts — Ascension and St. James — met the required number of devices and network capabilities to begin online assessments, the state Department of Education reported in July.
The state report reinforced the need for outside expertise and echoed what the district already knew — “We weren’t ready,” Cooper said.
The state’s digital readiness report “made it even more imperative for me to get the chamber involved because they can bring in the best of the best to critique us, guide us and give us a plan,” Cooper said.