BERLIN – A $100,000 donation from Taylor Bank has launched the start of a new community initiative designed to bring the latest technology to Worcester County’s public schools.
Community members gathered at Stephen Decatur High School Tuesday to celebrate the beginning of the Worcester County Education Foundation, an organization that will be devoted to increasing the technology available to local students. The Taylor Bank donation is the first step in an effort to raise $1 million this year.
“It’s an investment in our future,” said Ray Thompson, president of Taylor Bank.
The Worcester County Education Foundation, made up of a variety of local business owners and community leaders, was created to help the school system achieve its goal of being able to provide every student with a mobile device, according to Jerry Wilson, superintendent of Worcester County’s public schools.
“We believe the Education Foundation will help support innovations across Worcester County Public Schools,” Wilson said. “The Worcester County Education Foundation will create a legacy of community support.”
Lou Taylor, the school system’s chief operating officer and former principal of Stephen Decatur High School, said the foundation would play a key role in providing local students with a “world class educational system.” He said giving students the latest technology would keep them competitive.
“We’re training kids today for jobs that won’t exist 10 years from now,” Taylor said. “That can be a difficult task.”
Wilson said technology, something today’s children were growing up surrounded by, allowed for 24/7 learning. He said providing each of the school system’s students with mobile devices like tablets would allow them to learn from anywhere, to take online courses and to interact with their fellow students and teachers online.
“Digital conversion will increase productivity,” Wilson said.
Because Worcester County’s schools receive so little state funding, due to a state formula that ranks Worcester as one of the wealthiest counties in Maryland, Wilson explained that an initiative like the Worcester County Education Foundation would help the school system fund technology without putting even more financial pressure on county government.
Worcester County currently provides 76 percent of the funding for the school system. Wilson said that was nearly the opposite of how nearby school systems were funded. In Wicomico and Somerset counties, the state funds three quarters of the education budget.
Bringing mobile technology to each of Worcester County’s 6,700 students won’t be cheap — Wilson says it will cost more than $3 million. Grants and cost-saving initiatives such as the school system’s energy conservation program have helped generate some funding for technology but Wilson hopes the Education Foundation can supplement those efforts.
Foundation Chair Todd Ferrante, owner of Park Place Jewelers, agreed.
“We need to give students the tools they need to compete,” he said, adding that some local public school classrooms still relied on chalkboards. “Digital conversion is more than just buying computers. It’s a curriculum and instruction project first and a technology project second.”
Ferrante said the goal of the foundation was to raise $5 million for the effort in five years.
“That will take each and every one of you helping us,” he said. “It will make our community stronger.”
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