R.J. Wells Middle School was recognized Monday as an Apple Distinguished School for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. This was the second consecutive Apple Distinguished award for WMS.
“The designation is reserved for programs that meet criteria for innovation, leadership and educational excellence, and demonstrate Apple’s vision of exemplary learning environments,” said Principal Della Parrish. “We applied for the award last year and got it — making us the first school in Oklahoma to be recognized for our unique implementation of Apple technology. With that, we agreed to have an Apple Technology Day and invite schools from across the state to show them our program.”
This year, WMS was awarded for a two-year period. The school received a plaque presented by Apple representatives during the district’s regular school board meeting.
Parrish said by extending the recognition to two years, teachers and administrators can strategically plan for the technology day to better showcase the program to other districts.
Four years ago, Catoosa Public Schools was given the opportunity to write a grant to the State Department of Education for funds to push forward with the Apple partnership.
“We received a grant of about $716,000. We were able to purchase laptops for all of seventh and eighth grade, and the laptops we already had in the building, were available for sixth grade students to use,” said Parrish. “Through the Apple One to One program, every Wells Middle School student was able to have their own laptop. At the same time, the grant paid for professional development for our teachers to learn how to use the applications on the Macbook and how to develop curriculum for 21st century learning.”
In November, CPS passed a $21.6 million bond issue — the largest in district history — that allowed the program to be implemented in grades 9-12.
“Our community has adopted the phrase, ‘Team Catoosa,’ which represents the concept of the community and school district coming together with a vision,” said Catoosa Superintendent Rick Kibbe. “As a result of that vision, we teamed up with Apple to create our One to One program. This program allows each student, in grades 6-12, to have an Apple laptop and gives all our children access to the type of technology that will prepare them for 21st century learning.”
Parrish said the program would not be sustainable without community support.
“The bond issue provided us with needed funds to replace computers, and continue building the framework to support more and more computers.
In order for Catoosa schools to be able to utilize the one to one program, they had to become an Apple Distinguished School. As part of the application process, administrators and teachers had to create an iBook displaying how the school uses Apple technology in the classroom.
“Apple representatives want to know that (teachers) are being innovative, imaginitive and creative — that we’re really teaching to a higher level of rigor,” she said. “We had to demonstrate that we had the professional development to utilize skills to maintain current equipment.”
Parrish said there are approximately 219 Apple Distinguished schools in the country, but only two in Oklahoma — Wells Middle School and Oklahoma Christian University.
“Teachers are no longer the sage on the stage. There really are facilitators for learning now that lead students to learn the things they need to know on their own,” she said. “Instead of read this chapter and answer the questions, they investigate and give the answer based on what they found. By using the Apple technology, students can create either key note presentations, iMovies or page documents to present the information they found.”