Talk about taking technology to new heights.

In a challenge to students, parents, her staff, and the community at large, elementary school principal Avonelle Kirby promised several months ago that if $50,000 could be raised to help fund a technology resource center for parents, she would spend a night on the roof of the school.

As it turns out, the community raised more than $54,000 and Kirby, principal of Arnold Elementary School in Jonesboro, Ga., recently paid up on her promise. Up the ladder of a firetruck, that is.

And when the firetruck arrived the evening of May 21, Kirby, sleeping bag in arm, was ready to fulfill her end of the bargain.

But in a further show of the school’s dedication to parent and community involvement, Kirby wasn’t the only one camping out that night. About 50 families also grabbed their sleeping bags–though only Kirby’s husband joined her on the roof–and made a true community event out of the occasion. Many others came out for a cook-out or for breakfast the next morning.

Arnold Elementary, a school of 535 students in grades K-5, is part of Clayton County Public Schools, just south of Atlanta.

Earlier that week, the school hosted an event called Arnold’s Technology Night, during which parents and members of the community were invited to see the role that technology can play in lifelong learning.

Exhibitors from local businesses, colleges, and universities demonstrated some of the latest technological advances used in classrooms, at work, and at home. More than 40 technology vendors showed off their hardware and software offerings, while students got to demonstrate what technology has taught them.

Approximately 700 people attended the event, including two dozen dignitaries from the county, state, and national levels, Kirby said.

“We felt it important to allow our community to see how technology can indeed impact student learning,” she said. “We also felt that it was important to let our legislators know how technology funds are being utilized at the school level.”

The fundraising effort that landed Kirby on the roof just three days later was intended to match a $50,000 grant the school received from the county school system to build a Faculty Technology Resource Center at Arnold Elementary. The center will provide computer training for parents so they can better help their children with homework.

Just about everyone in the community pitched in to help the cause. Parents made donations themselves and also asked their employers and neighbors for donations.

Every class at Arnold was challenged to raise enough money to buy one computer. Classes chose a variety of ways to raise the dough, from selling cookbooks to holding raffles for Furbies and Beanie Babies. Some classes raised enough money to buy two computers, Kirby said.

The staff at Arnold Elementary made donations ranging from $25 to $1,000, she said.

Local businesses got into the act as well. The school is expecting a $2,800 check from the nearby Coca Cola Co. from its matching funds program.

The parent resource center is part of a larger, five-year initiative to make Arnold Elementary a model of technology education. Called FAME, or Funding Arnold’s Multimedia Education, the initiative aims to raise funds for new computers, labs, printers, and videoconferencing equipment. Learning kiosks and wireless classrooms are also part of the plan.

And in yet another demonstration of the school’s outreach to parents and the community, the FAME initiative additionally seeks to launch a computer take-home program for Arnold families, as well as technology training for area residents.

Training for teachers, too, has been an important part of Arnold’s technology picture.

The school’s entire staff–including teachers and paraprofessionals–has completed 50 hours of training on how to integrate technology into the curriculum using the Georgia Department of Education’s InTech training model.

Arnold Elementary School

http://www.ccps.ga.net/arnold/default.htm