Schools Study Thefts and Technology

By Ann Needle

Thefts at Nashoba Regional High School topped the discussion at Tuesday night’s Nashoba School Committee meeting. The Committee also heard more about how the district is equipped to handle new technology, voting in a new policy on how students and staff can use their own technology in the classroom.

NRHS Principal Dr. Parry Graham offered what he knew about the rate of thefts at the high school. While Graham assured that thefts are not an everyday occurrence at NRHS, he did estimate that anecdotal information reported from the school staff pointed to about one theft per week last school year. Most of these incidents involved cash rather than electronic devices or other items, and occurred during class time, he said.

Parry pointed to the lack of lockers as perhaps one source of the issue, with about 920 working lockers for more than 1,000 students. Until about 4 years ago, each student automatically received a lock, but Graham said he was told this practice stopped when administration realized most students did not use them. Today, he stressed that the school distributes locks to any student requesting one, and the supply has not been an issue.

Explaining that the majority of thefts seem to happen in the gym locker rooms, Graham reported that he has asked the gym teachers to lock the rooms during classes. This may have helped slice the overall theft rate by about half so far this year, but Graham noted this also makes it tougher on students. That’s because the process of unlocking the rooms between classes sometimes leaves students late for the next class.

When it comes to locker usage, Graham maintained that the school also is grappling with human nature. “These are teenagers,” he remarked. “It’s usually just easier not to lock the locker.”

Another dilemma is a lack of security cameras near lockers — for example, there are cameras outside the gym locker rooms, but not inside, Graham said. He commented, “Ask any kid at the high school, they can tell you where the cameras are and are not.”

In making the high school safer, Graham said he would like to add security cameras to 10 to 12 areas, and to put in a new, swifter keying system for the gym locker rooms. Graham agreed that it also would be helpful to encourage students to report thefts. As he put it, “My guess is for every theft reported, there is one that isn’t.”

Technology Policy Approved
The Committee approved a long-awaited policy on the use of personal electronic devices in district classrooms. (The only abstaining vote came from Stow Rep. Lynn Colletti.) This Personal Device Network Usage Policy is designed to help regulate how staff and students manage their own computers, laptops, tablets, or hand-held devices while in the schools.
Among many guidelines, the policy calls for anyone bringing one of these devices to class to register it with the NRSD Technology Dept., and for any Internet access on the Nashoba network to be monitored.

Come January, the district will try out allowing the usage of these devices in select classrooms through its “Bring Your Own Device” program. In reviewing some of the technology capabilities available to support BYOD, Assistant Superintendent George King noted that personal devices will likely take up only about 20% of the Nashoba system’s bandwith.

One scheduled vote the Committee did postpone was on the latest draft of an updated District Improvement Plan, with some members voicing concern that they would like a closer look before voting. The plan must be updated annually.
Superintendent Michael Wood delivered some good news on the financial front, noting that Nashoba should not be affected this school year by recent budget cuts announced by the governor. Another upbeat bit of news was for Stow. Wood announced that Hale Middle School Science Teacher Chris Whitaker was recognized as Coach of the Year at the FIRST LEGO regional competition, held last Saturday at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

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