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Grant will boost schools' technology supply

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"I use it all day, everyday," says Kellogg Middle School Assistant Principal Chris Streiff of her iPad.

Kellogg Middle School is getting a technology booster shot.

The Rochester middle school has only a handful of computer tablets for its staff and 800 students. But that is expected to change, thanks to a $5,000 IBM grant.

"We can put some technology in the hands of the students," said Kellogg Principal Dwight Jennings, who plans to use part of the grant for tablets and other hardware and the rest for science fair projects.

Kellogg is not alone. It is one of more than 40 schools, PTA groups and departments within the district to benefit from an IBM grant program. Altogether, IBM plans to direct $90,000 to Rochester schools and initiatives, from "cloud" computing to "smarter," more cost-efficient schools to buying more mobile devices for students.

Jennings said that the partnerships Rochester has been able to form with organizations like IBM are critical to the district's mission.

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"We are trying to make sure that we develop and continue these kinds of partnerships because educating our kids is all of our responsibility," Jennings said. "And we are looking to have such wonderful partnerships."

IBM has been a regular contributor of time and donations to the schools through its On Demand Community program. Once an employee has donated a certain amount of time to the community, for instance, they can apply for a grant.

In the Rochester district's case, grant amounts ranged from $1,500 to $10,000. Most schools received $1,500, but two, Kellogg and Harriett Bishop Elementary School, received $5,000 awards. The district's technology support services received $10,000.

Mary Welder, an IBM spokesperson, said the amount signified the "very significant program partnership" between IBM and the district department.

Robb Wiedrich, an IBM manager, said part of the $10,000 grant will focus on moving the district to the "cloud." That means taking the district's applications that deal with grades, email and reports and centralizing them on shared hardware. The difference will be not only greater ease and transparency for teachers and parents, but also cost savings for the district.

"Instead of running on legacy servers that they've got to maintain, all of this can now be centralized on one piece of hardware," said Wiedrich. "And that cuts down on maintenance."

The grant money also will help create smarter buildings in Rochester by allowing the district to take a more pro-active approach to maintenance. Smarter schools are focused on "analytics," a process that emphasizes the intelligent management of schools through information technology. The result is more efficient use of heating and cooling units, lights and plumbing.

"The savings is really in how the district runs its operations day to day and saving money, which then allows them to divert resources and funds to impact how students are learning," Wiedrich said.

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