QPS Foundation supports junior high tech needs

Zoey Vahle uses an iPad in Susan Job's keyboarding class in this April 11 file photo at Quincy Junior High. The Quincy Public Schools Foundation announced a $150,000 grant this week for technology upgrades at the school. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 16, 2019 12:01 am

QUINCY -- When Kent Embree asked this week how many of the Quincy Junior High School teachers wanted better or newer classroom technology, plenty of hands shot into the air.

Embree followed up his question by announcing a $150,000 grant from the Quincy Public Schools Foundation, where he serves as executive director, to support technology needs at QJHS.

"Everybody wants computers, new computers," Embree said. "There's been a lot of attention put on the new elementary schools recently, and in some ways, technology at the junior high has taken a back seat to that. When somebody graduates up from the elementary school to the junior high, they want to see more opportunities available in technology."

Embree said the grant should almost fully cover the first year of a technology plan for the junior high.

"We're looking forward to getting new technology for the junior high. That will be a fall project, mostly Chromebooks and carts," QPS Information Technology Director Dan Ware said.

"We're looking to add more devices for the junior high once the dust settles a little bit from the start of the school year."

In the meantime, Ware said his department will be focused on finishing the transition to the new Thomas S. Baldwin and Sarah Atwater Denman elementary schools.

"We're still working on deploying and getting everything organized for the K-5, getting their devices redistributed from the other buildings and getting them all squared away," Ware said.

The foundation gives thousands each year to QPS in teacher grants and grants to the district that support curriculum, technology, fine arts and athletics. Teacher grant applications are due Sept. 30.

"The foundation's an amazing organization for QPS. The money they raise and invest in our school district has really allowed us to do a lot of things we would not be able to do," Superintendent Roy Webb said.

"The technology, textbooks, teacher support, student support they have invested in has made an impact on our district."

Technology remains on ongoing need.

A report to the Curriculum Committee in April highlighted how far QPS has come in putting technology in the hands of students -- and how much more it still needs to do.

The district's computer count of student laptops went from 1,500 six years ago to more than 3,500 with 1,596 available K-5, 1,184 at Quincy High School and 339 at QJHS, where the focus has been on upgrading and adding computer labs.

The QJHS grant "is going to go a big step in equaling out the allocation for all the schools," Webb said. "This is a special investment that's going to make a great impact on our junior high students."

Embree also highlighted the foundation's role as a funding conduit in the largest privately funded project in its history, the $1.3 million Flinn Stadium facility featuring a weight room, locker room, video room and storage for equipment.

"The key is having the foundation positioned where we are," Embree said. "It facilitates these projects where we can help make sure that the money flows directly to the school district. The same is true when we apply for grants through other foundations. When they come in for a specific purpose, it just makes it that much more simple."

Another key is continued support for the foundation from the community -- and from QPS staff.

"It's important to communicate to the educators so they can hear what we're doing," Embree said. "The foundation needs (their) help so we can continue to support these programs in the district."