NAUGATUCK - “Global Gateway is your ticket to access 21st century learning, “ stated Tug Valley High School principal Johnny Branch, as he addressed the members of the junior class student body on Wednesday morning during a presentation for a project that is the first of its kind in Mingo County, and one of only a handful within the state.
The high school received funding from the Board of Education and other resources that paid for state-of-the-art laptop computers that will be utilized by each and every eleventh-grader in the classroom, and from home.
“With the upgraded infrastructure of our Internet system here at Tug Valley, we now have wireless Internet throughout our school,” remarked Branch, “making it possible for students to continually access programs and educational sites associated with their daily lessons.”
Faculty members at the school had the opportunity to develop their own curriculum and lesson designs, hence the birth of Global Gateway.
B.O.E. Vice-President Jacqueline Branch, wife of Principal Branch, spoke to the students and expressed her enthusiasm for the program.
“This is an excellent opportunity for all of you,” she commented. “There’s a saying I’ve often heard that I think applies to all of you sitting here today.
“If it’s important to you, you will make it happen. If it’s not – you’ll make an excuse. I hope each of you make this happen, and never make excuses.”
Branch told the students she wants them to be proud to be a student of Tug Valley High, because Tug Valley was already proud of them.
BOE President William Duty also spoke, and compared the computers being placed into the hands of all junior students to having a bank account established at the school in their names.
“I hope you draw from the wealth that has just been placed in your care,” stated Duty. “Squeeze every bit of knowledge and learning from it that you possible can.”
The principal explained some of the top reasons for implementing the personal use of school-owned computers with the students, and stated that the main purpose was to keep students connected with teachers and faculty in situations such as tutoring for those who struggle with their grades.
“We have students that live approximately 31 miles away from our school. They get on the bus at 5:45 a.m., travel for an hour to school and back home again in the evening,” said Branch.
“We couldn’t arrange transportation for after-school tutoring because of these reasons. The use of the computers will alleviate these concerns and will allow for educational assistance to reach beyond the doors of the school.
“We don’t want your learning to stop at the close of the school day.”
Branch further explained that, for instance, if certain buses are unable to run because of inclement weather, students can easily access their classes online from home.
Branch has teamed with Frontier Communications in an attempt to expedite high-speed Internet to isolated communities within his school district, and says that areas such as Dingess, Breeden and Twelve-Pole may have this service offered in as little as 2-3 months.
While researching this concern, Branch found that 83.7 percent of his student body has high-speed Internet access in their homes, while a shocking 16.3 percent still do not.
“Our goal is that within the next few months, all of the areas in question will have this service available,” Branch relayed.
The rules that apply to the students who received the computers are simple; Take care of the computer, remember that it belongs to the school but it’s yours to use, and to always keep it fully charged and bring it to class.
Branch explained that the instructors will design technology rich lessons and that the students’ homework will be saved in a drop box and can even be accessed from another computer should the student experience problems with their own. He stated that this program will increase rigor and relevancy in the classroom, increase student engagement and achievement, increase student attendance and also the graduation rates.
“No longer do we intend to be a low-performance school,” commented Branch. “This program has established new ways to think and engage.”
Branch spoke of how the drop-out rates have drastically reduced since he accepted the position as principal. In 2010, 32 students failed to graduate and 12 more followed suit in 2011 prior to the change in leadership. Since Branch become principal – one student has left. He commented he won’t be satisfied until that number is zero.
Prior to the presentation of the computers to the class, Branch spoke of the importance of the students succeeding, since they will be responsible in setting the precedence for other similar programs that will follow.
“Today – we change your life as a student. People will be writing about you in the future, about your achievements and improvements,” Branch said.
Eleventh-graders Caleb Blankenship and Casie Bevins commented on the “1 to 1, Computer to Student” program, saying that it’s a very exciting time for Tug Valley High.
“The only class we had computer access in before this was English,” said Blankenship. “I’m looking forward to having a quicker, easier way to communicate with my teachers.”
Bevins remarked that using computers makes it a lot simpler to keep up with and organize notes and study sheets since they will no longer be hand-written.
Both students remarked they want to succeed not only for their school, but Mingo County as a whole, and their entire state as well.
“We’re setting the stage,” concluded Blankenship. “We’re changing our reputation – we’re going to be known for our success.”