Carroll County teachers can buy computers using payroll deduction Aim is to raise instructors' high-tech comfort level

September 16, 1997|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Carroll County teachers who have computers at home will be much more comfortable using high technology around students: That's the philosophy behind the school system offering a payroll-deduction loan for staff members to buy home computers.

"We have to get up in front of students in a computer lab and teach a lesson, and there are teachers who don't have that comfort level," said Pam Hayes, a fourth-grade teacher at Mechanicsville Elementary School.

The Carroll school system hopes to make it easier for teachers to purchase a home computer, even for those overwhelmed by the choices in the retail market.

About 400 of the school system's 2,400 employees have indicated interest through a survey. Administrators have no data on what percentage of teachers have home computers.

Employees can choose from about a half-dozen laptop or desktop models made by Apple or Gateway. The prices are comparable to buying directly from the manufacturer and include hands-on training.

The school system has arranged for employee loans at 8.9 percent interest through Union National Bank. The loans will be repaid in one to four years through payroll deduction.

The employee credit unions for Anne Arundel and Howard County schools have provided similar programs for several years.

"The kids look at you and feel like you should know everything, even though we don't aspire to that at all," Hayes said.

Still, she and other teachers want to feel confident with computers and learn to find helpful Web sites.

"That [confidence] is so easily transferred to children," Hayes said.

Hayes has a computer, but is thinking of using the offer to upgrade her equipment. She has found her Macintosh at home to be of great help in keeping up with notes to parents, writing lesson plans and creating banners.

She hopes that teachers will be able to use their computers to send electronic mail throughout the day, to get input on lessons and exchange information or materials.

"Computers are a relatively new phenomenon, and with a veteran teaching staff, many of those people weren't taught with computers," said Cynthia Eckenrode, principal at Mechanicsville.

For a principal who has to write form letters year after year, she said, a computer makes it easier to customize a letter without retyping the whole thing.

A classroom teacher can do the same with a multiplication work sheet, changing just a few problems as needed.

The past few summers, Eckenrode has allowed teachers to take home a computer from the school's lab. More often than not, teachers buy their own computers soon after returning the school's machine.

The Anne Arundel program has been popular, said Greg Nourse, the county's director of financial services, who bought a computer through it.

Of Anne Arundel's 8,000 school employees, about 800 have bought computers through the program. The first year, the loans were offered by the Anne Arundel school board, using a cash surplus. But as financial services director, Nourse was uncomfortable with that, he said, and the employee credit union has since offered computer loans at 7 percent interest.

In the past, Howard County school employees could repay a computer loan from their credit union through payroll deduction.

Pub Date: 9/16/97

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