Springfield Public School Board of Education members Kelly Byrne, left, and Danielle Kincaid, and school superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan listen to comments from the public at the Board meeting. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

In a survey of 63 Springfield Public Schools kindergarten teachers, 56 said they wanted each of their students to have access to a Chromebook or similar device during the school day. In a 4-3 vote on Feb. 28, the school board voted against such a purchase. 

The district had proposed the purchase of 2,000 touchscreen Chromebooks, at a cost of $553,000, to provide each kindergarten student with a device that would be used in classrooms and not taken home. Board members Kelly Byrne, Scott Crise, Steve Makoski and Maryam Mohammadkhani voted against the purchase. Denise Fredrick, Danielle Kincaid and Shurita Thomas-Tate voted in support of it. 

The district survey of kindergarten teachers showed that 59 of the 63 said the devices would either be used zero to 10 percent of the typical school day (37 teachers) or 11 to 20 percent (22 teachers). 

During a brief discussion before the Feb. 28 vote, Kincaid said she appreciated the feedback from “actual educators who are in the classroom,” and said she was voting in support of a decision that nearly 89 percent of kindergarten teachers favored. 

Byrne said he couldn’t support a purchase that gave kindergartners access to the devices at a one-to-one ratio. 

“Had this been proposed as something other than one-to-one, I probably wouldn’t have thought too much about it,” he said. 

A student participates in a Zoom meeting on a Chromebook provided by SPS.
A student participates in a Zoom meeting on a Chromebook provided by SPS. (Photo by Jackie Rehwald)

The comments echoed those he shared during a Feb. 14 board discussion on the proposed purchase. 

“What do we really need one Chromebook for every kindergarten student if the amount they actually need the thing is so minimal?” Byrne asked at that meeting. “Why can’t those devices be shared across classrooms?”

Bruce Douglas, the district’s IT director, said during the Feb. 14 meeting that kindergarten teachers have told the IT department that it was difficult to plan a day not knowing whether or when devices shared among different classrooms would be available. 

The Feb. 14 discussion on Chromebook access grew heated at times among board members with differing views on the proposal, but it was nothing like the explosive Feb. 28 debate surrounding Mohammadkhani’s actions during a recent Youth Empowerment Summit session. Mohammadkhani was stripped of her board vice president title in a 4-3 vote that followed over an hour of debate about her decision to challenge a presenter in the middle of a session that addressed racial trauma with SPS high school seniors. 

The 4-3 Chromebook decision followed that fiery debate, and there was little discussion in advance of that vote. The survey of kindergarten teachers was conducted following the Feb. 14 meeting, and the results, included in the board’s agenda packet, are available online

On Thursday, John Mulford, SPS deputy superintendent, said district staff would look into different options to provide kindergartners access to technology. 

“I do anticipate a purchase,” he said. “It just may not be one-to-one.”

Cory Matteson

Cory Matteson moved to Springfield in 2022 to join the team of Daily Citizen journalists and staff eager to launch a local news nonprofit. He returned to the Show-Me State nearly two decades after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Prior to arriving in Springfield, he worked as a reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star and Casper Star-Tribune. More by Cory Matteson