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Rumble of Thunder – January 5, 2015

Photo of Dr. HughesJanuary 5, 2016

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe it’s already 2016 when it was just a year ago that I moved to Central Valley. Time sure flies, especially when you are busy.

The holidays might be past us now, but a couple of important items happened prior to the break. First, the Board of Education unanimously approved realigning our elementary schools from two separate PreK-4 buildings to a Primary building and an Intermediate building. This change will take place in September 2016.  We will have more information as we work through the specifics, but there will definitely be an orientation at each building for parents and students alike.  For more information about why this change was necessary, please take a moment to look at the information and video we posted on the district website and Facebook page.

The other important item from December was the approval of two new policies by the Board of Education: 5305 Social Media & Electronic Device Policy (PDF) and 7602 Acceptable Use Policy for Mobile Devices (PDF).

The two new polices provide regulations on the appropriate use of social media, electronic devices and the district network for both employees and students.

As I’ve discussed in previous blog posts, our students now live in a world with information at their fingertips. It’s less important to remember facts; instead, it’s critical that our students and staff can find information and then use that information properly. The exchange of information and learning is happening faster and faster in the digital world.  As with any learning, there will be mistakes, but that should not stop us or our students from living and learning in a digital world. Instead, we must help our students navigate the digital world in a safe and meaningful way.  When mistakes do occur, and that certainly will happen, it will provide a learning opportunity to teach right from wrong.

I am proud of our Board of Education for taking a progressive approach to align learning with Central Valley’s mission statement. This might be a small step, but some of you would be surprised by the number of schools and other organizations to block social media and tools such as YouTube on the possibility that a student or adult might use them incorrectly. This is a fruitless effort; anyone good with a computer can find ways around network filters. That’s why security software companies constantly update their software, plugging the latest hack.

The Social Media & Electronic Device Policy sets standards for the appropriate use of digital tools while seeking to prevent any use of social media that disrupts the educational environment. It is not Central Valley’s intent to monitor social media use by employees or students, but the law clearly requires the school district to act if the educational environment is disrupted.

Social media is a privilege and not a right, especially when it is accessed through the school’s devices and network. As such, anyone using the District’s network or equipment does not have the right to privacy of any information transmitted or stored. This is not a case of “big brother watching,” as no one has time in the day to monitor the amount of information being passed over the network. It’s merely a warning that, if and when improper use occurs, any information transmitted via the District’s equipment could be used as evidence. The Board explicitly prohibits the use of electronic devices to communicate with students except for educational purposes related to instruction, learning and extracurricular activities. Again, it’s all about making good choices.

The Acceptable Use Policy for Mobile Devices recognizes the integral role phones and other digital devices play in the lives of our Thunder. A device in a student’s hand allows him or her immediate access to information that can positively impact learning.  With that in mind, students will now be able to link their personal mobile devices to the CV’s network—as long as they and their parents or guardians sign the corresponding user agreement and students follow all policies and rules in the Code of Conduct. I have heard from a number of our parents who have students using the family data plan to do school work on their phones. By using our network, students can now access the internet while avoiding additional data charges. This is another, but very important, step as we move toward personalized learning. In the near future, we want every student to have access to a device, whether it’s a laptop, Chromebook or iPad. This will allow students to learn anywhere and anytime, even on a bus or during a snow day. Some of our Thunder will make mistakes and use the electronic devices improperly; that’s to be expected of children and young adults. When that happens, we will work together to help them learn from those mistakes, so they can be fully prepared for the digital world we inhabit.

Dr. Hughes