letter to the editor

An Open Letter to the School Board: Computer Literacy in Monroe County Schools


Chairman Griffiths:

I listened with great interest to your comments last week on “Morning Magazine” regarding “Monroe Compute$”. I share your enthusiasm and praise for John Padget and Jacob Dekker for creating the program which enables students to earn industry certificates in computing and computer science programs such as Microsoft Office and Adobe.

Of course, the success of this program is directly related to the financial incentives provided by Padget and Dekker, more than $75,000 for the 256 students who have successfully completed their course work in the last two years. Padget and Dekker deserve the deepest appreciation for what they have done to improve educational opportunity in our community. These gentlemen understand what it takes for success in the 21st century and are doing everything that they can to promote it.

What I do not understand is why the Monroe County School District, one of the wealthiest in the state, continues to provide an education suitable for the 20th century. Computer literacy apparently is very low on the list of academic priorities in the District. Everyone seems satisfied if students can play computer games, while ignoring the greater opportunities available.

A review of “Curriculum Files – Secondary (9-12)” on the District website revealed no computer offerings whatsoever. A search on the keywords “computer science” resulted in a message of “no results found”.

An investigation into course offerings at Key West High School, under the rubric of “Career/Technical Electives”, found course work in two general areas, “Applied Information Technology” and “Web Design Pathway”. How often any or all of the courses in these two areas are offered could not be determined. And, they are electives, not part of the standard curriculum. Taking elective classes, given the other academic requirements placed on students, can be very daunting and, in many cases, impossible.

MCSD has basically ignored its responsibilities to provide an appropriate education for the world that we live in, preferring that the private sector step into the breach. That I do not understand. The failure of the District to provide a 21st century education is not for lack of funding, rather it is for lack of interest. And, I do not understand that either. Why the District is relying on the private sector to create a veritable curriculum instead of doing such itself is beyond me. To say that the state provides for the “virtual classroom” is basically a copout.

The purpose of this letter is to challenge the School District to do something, anything, to provide a better education for the students of Monroe County in all grades, with a premium on the promotion of computer literacy and all that that means. Similarly, the District needs to do much more in the general field of vocational education beyond the lame commercial fishing, cooking, auto repair and the like. We owe it to the students, most of whom will have to leave the county for employment, to provide them with the skills and resources necessary to survive in the modern world.

Larry Murray


Since sending you my Open Letter on computer literacy in the Monroe County schools, I have become aware that John Padget and Jacob Dekker have done it again! They have expanded their computer programs that they support to include Advanced Placement Computer Science offered for free at the Florida Virtual School. Students who take this course will be “loaned” a laptop computer which, upon successful completion, will be theirs to keep. Kudos again to John and Jacob.

In today’s Citizen, Superintendent Mark Porter is quoted as saying: “Most jobs of the future will require some knowledge of computers and computer science.” I could not agree more which is why I penned my Open Letter. Superintendent Porter goes on to say: “The Monroe County Schools will continue to expand our course offerings to meet both student and industry demands.” Superintendent Porter concludes by saying: “COMPUTE$ has been an exceptionally helpful partner stimulating student interest in our computer science courses.”

I would love to know just what the course offerings are now, other than a handful of electives, and what the plans are for future expansion. And, to say that “COMPUTE$ has been an exceptionally helpful partner” is the understatement of the year. Without Monroe COMPUTE$, there would be virtually no computer science available to Monroe County students as what COMPUTE$ supports is done by students after hours, on their own time. If I am incorrect in my criticisms of MCSD with regard to computer science instruction, I would love to be proven wrong.

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