What a Chowchilla Union High School teacher thought would better her students’ learning experience now has her in trouble.
Kim Kutzner, an English teacher, and her husband, Paul Wheeler, a computer specialist, collected enough laptops using their own money for each of her students to use, but those computers may not be allowed in the classroom.
Kutzner said the laptops, which students have been using for most of their work for several months, were removed from her classroom after school officials voiced concerns about equipment being used that wasn’t purchased and approved by the district.
The estimated value of the computer equipment is nearly $78,000, according to Kutzner, and the district has offered to pay for new computers. But Kutzner is urging them to accept her current system as a gift instead.
The 90 computers have since been returned to Kutzner’s classroom – but there is no guarantee they will be allowed to stay.
“We are using the computers at the moment, but administration is saying that they need to go,” Kutzner said. “I was told that my job is on the line because of this. But I thought I was going above and beyond ... When I first proposed it, I was told how generous it was. It’s just absurd. It’s not logical or reasonable.”
Kutzner said that while Chowchilla Union High has computer labs, there are not computers in most classrooms, and she wanted all of her students to have access to a device. She said that since bringing in the laptops, student morale and test scores have significantly improved.
It’s just absurd. It’s not logical or reasonable.
Kim Kutzner, Chowchilla High teacher
“It has been nothing but successful with the kids. Usually, when I would assign them to write a 500-word story, I would hear groans and I couldn’t get them to focus. But now they go to work without a peep because they like using technology – it’s nonthreatening,” she said.
“The students are really, really upset that they could be taken away again. When teens get in trouble, you take away their technology, so for them, there’s a sense of injustice.”
Chowchilla Union Principal Justin Miller said the concern is with district policies about outside equipment and whether student data, and what students have access to, is protected under Kutzner’s custom system.
“The biggest concern the district has is making sure that it’s safe and passes all the rules and state and federal governmental regulations, since it was brought in from the outside,” he said. “Depending on the filter and things like that, they might not be safe, so we are reviewing everything and trying to be as safe as possible.”
We’re just trying to make sure everyone is protected.
Chowchilla Union High School District Superintendent Ron Seals
Kutzner contends that the computers are safe: her husband custom designed the system for her students, and there is no connection to the Internet.
Chowchilla Union High School District Superintendent Ron Seals would not comment on the details of the issue, and could not point to specific policies that would prevent the use of Kutzner’s computers, but said they are allowed in the classroom until the board makes a final decision.
“We’ve been working on trying to get this solved, ” Seals said. “We’re just trying to make sure everyone is protected. Mrs. Kutzner is one of our best teachers in the district, but the bottom line is the computers are not district property. Would you allow me to come into your house and install my stuff without any involvement?”