Lexington 1 candidates spar over technology, fees

16,000 students, teachers use district-issued electronic tablets

tflach@thestate.comOctober 12, 2012 

Lexington 1 School Board candidates sparred Thursday over student use of electronic tablets and registration fees.

Ed Harmon, one of two incumbents on the Nov. 6 ballot, said providing the devices to middle and high schools students will be “a game-changer.”

His defense of the two-year-old effort came at a forum at Gilbert High after some of the 12 candidates rapped the move as allowing video games to be played at school.

Such uses happen “way too often,” challenger Janet Frazier said.

The plan also is premature since many teachers lack experience in using the devices well enough to improve academic lessons, she said.

Former board member Hazel Duell agreed, saying “not all technology is good.”

But Harmon called the plan vital for students whose families that can’t afford the equipment and Internet access.

“It can open up the world for them,” he said.

Challenger Rutu Bhonsle agreed that exposure to other cultures is important. “Our world is getting smaller and smaller with all the technology.”

Lexington 1 has given the devices to 16,000 students and teachers.

Fees for registration and activities also came under fire.

Those charges are “hard on families” and should be lowered or eliminated, challenger Anthony Feraci said.

Board chairwoman Cindy Smith, the other incumbent on the ballot, said school officials are “extremely budget-conscious” as they cope with steady growth.

Enrollment has increased by 6,000 students during the past 12 years, she said.

There are 23,000 students in Lexington 1 classrooms in Gilbert, Lexington, Oak Grove, Pelion and Red Bank.

The top four choices of voters in the nonpartisan contest win four-year terms on the board.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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