Education Opinion

Stolen Property

By Roslyn Johnson Smith, Ph.D. — January 11, 2008 2 min read

The laptop computers we purchased for the teachers were scheduled for delivery today. They have a fellow teacher to thank for planting the idea with the Board. Like so many of our faculty members, she was teaching in another state last year. When she returned to the city, she shared her experiences and gave us some benchmarks from the school district that she left behind. One of her first questions was, “Are we going to get laptops?” I responded, “Of course,” although we had not budgeted for that specific item, just technology in general. Hopefully, we can get the Help Desk at the central office to set up their email accounts soon.

When we took possession of the school, although the building was furnished, we did not get an inventory of books, equipment, or materials. After several requests to the central office for information, it was determined that there were no lists for this school because it was stocked with items from the warehouse. Nothing had been ordered specifically for McDonogh 42 when it was an RSD-operated school. It had been opened in a hurry to serve wait-listed students.

I have several friends who are working in the RSD schools and they offered to help us. When I checked their inventories and reviewed what we had in our building, some things were missing. We had no televisions, no DVD players, no language centers or tape recorders. We didn’t have globes and only a few maps. We did have overhead projectors for every class. Some classes had chalkboards; some had cork bulletin boards; some had dry erase boards. One or two classes had all three. There were no Promethean Boards on back-order for us. We’ll need to buy those.

A week before Christmas, some the equipment that we ordered began to arrive. We received ten 27-inch television/DVD combinations. The carts came the next day. The principal carefully locked the TVs in a closet on the second floor. When we returned from the two-week break, four of the TVs---still in the boxes—were missing. The lock had been ripped from the door. The police said there was no sign of a break-in from the outside of the building. The three computers from a first floor kindergarten class were also missing.

It did not help to hear that at least two other schools experienced the same type of loss during the holiday break. One charter school reported $15,000 in missing equipment! We were already in the process of making our building more secure by installing new locks on all of the doors. We are considering installing cameras in the corridors. There was a meeting today with the security company that monitors the buildings; the price tag may be a high one.

Creating a safe and secure school is an expensive project. We even paid extra to have the teachers’ laptops installed with a theft protection service that tracks, locates and recovers lost computers, in case they get stolen. The principal is conducting a comprehensive fixed assets inventory. I don’t know how many computers we have but it is at least 100. At this rate, we’ll spend more money this year for lock-down devices than we will spend for instructional software.

Someone told me they couldn’t believe that people would steal from the children. We are in desperate times. Very little surprises me anymore.

The opinions expressed in Starting Over: A Post-Katrina Education are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.