‘Bright Futures’ needs help

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 16, 2007

WINDSOR – There is a “Bright Future” for Bertie County, at least for one year.

While some of the possible funding sources never materialized, the county’s educational leaders are determined to push forward on the Bright Futures program, a measure that calls for placing as many laptop computers as possible into the hands of public school students at Bertie Middle School.

The program was introduced in April of last year where Bertie’s Board of Commissioners and Board of Education began collaborating on ideas. It was a broad-based proposal, one where the commissioners would explore ways to build a technology based infrastructure that will connect low-income residents to the information and the tools which will help them improve their lives.

That two-fold plan starts in the Bertie Public School system where the goal is to provide each middle and high school student with a laptop computer. In order for that goal to realize its full potential, the second part of the plan must come together, that of offering affordable high-speed internet access to low-income households.

While the commissioners continue to seek ways to implement countywide high-speed internet access, the school system is eager to move forward with Bright Futures. At Monday’s joint meeting with the commissioners at the new Bertie Middle School, Interim Superintendent Dr. Michel Priddy said the educational benefits of the program, especially from a standpoint of using web-based technology, was too good to pass up.

“I would love to see you pursue this idea,” Dr. Priddy said. “But in order to move forward, the commissioners and the school board will need to join hands.”

Bertie Public Schools does have a $300,000 grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation to get the program off the ground. According to Carol Atkins, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Bertie Schools, $250,000 of that grant will purchase 500 Apple Mac Books, 15 wireless carts, software and professional development to run the program.

The unknown in Bright Futures is what funding is available down the road. The plan is to start at the middle school, then introduce “laptop learning” in the 9th-10th grades in year two and the 11th-12th grades in year three. But money is needed to implement those stages.

“We have enough money to move forward for year one of the project,” Atkins said during Monday’s joint meeting. “We will continue to seek grants for years two and three, but if they do not pan out, we will need your (commissioners) help. This is why we’re letting you know now, to keep you informed and up-to-date on where we stand.”

Meanwhile, Bright Futures is moving forward in another avenue. Last month, the Bertie County Resource Center held their first Digital Connector’s Camp. The three-day orientation launched a technology initiative within the county. Young Bertie County natives used the camp for training that they will pass along to

residents at the future Community Technology Hub (computer lab) located at the Resource Center.