Testimony of Zoe Rooney to the Board of Education, September 19, 2019

Topic: Action Item 35. Contract with Newsela – Comprehensive Digital Library

My name is Zoe Rooney, and I am an educator and the parent of two children in the district.

I’m here to speak to you tonight about action item 35, which is a proposed 5 year contract with Newsela, with compensation not to exceed $1,595,000.50.

$1.6 million dollars

Even over 5 years, that’s a lot of money.

I like Newsela a lot. I used it when I used to teach 5th grade self contained, and I think it’s a great resource.

That said, I don’t think that it’s a resource that we should be spending 1.6 million dollars on right now.

To access and make full use of the premium features the district wants to pay for, students need to have access to 1-1 technology. That is not the reality at many of our schools, so why are we proposing to spend this money on another online resource not everyone will be able to use?

There is a free version of Newsela that has a lot of the primary features that teachers might want to use. The downfall, is that when using the free version, teachers are more reliant on printing out articles, and teachers don’t get much paper to work with each year.

Instead of funneling more money into contracts, and especially contracts that are for more software, more screen time, more data online tracking our students that could be hacked like Aimsweb was, spend just a little bit of that on paper so teachers can print more articles if they want.

Then, spend the rest on restoring libraries with certified librarians to our schools.

Years of research tell us that, and I’m quoting from the Phi Delta Kappan here,  “fully integrated library programs with certified librarians can boost student achievement.

And that’s not even touching the facilities issues and other concerns on the table across the district right now.

Stop throwing millions of dollars at these contracts when there are more foundational, pressing issues that need to be addressed.