A request to add computer programming courses to the school division’s curriculum was the only comment heard during Tuesday night’s public hearing on the Mathews County School Board’s proposed $12.8 million budget.
School board members will return to the Mathews High School media center next Tuesday to hold its regular monthly meeting. At that time, the board is expected to approve its draft budget and forward it to county supervisors for their consideration.
Werlie Hendrix was the only speaker at Tuesday night’s hearing. He asked board members to consider taking steps to offer computer programming classes and to emphasize these offerings in the lower grade levels.
He said he recently spoke with a top executive at Bank of America, who told him that that firm has difficulty finding enough qualified computer programmers, even though starting salaries are $100,000 or more.
Hendrix said that the school division offers Spanish and French classes to students who probably will never get to use those languages, yet we are surrounded by information technology languages every day (computers, smartphones, tablets, etc.) and lack the skills to write these codes. Computer programming is the future, he said, "a very lucrative one."
"The interest is not being developed like it should be, or could be," he said. Technology classes at the schools, he said, are geared to the use of applications (such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, etc.) and web design, but not toward writing computer code. Hendrix said he has a personal stake in seeing this developed; his son, Noah, is a seventh grader at Thomas Hunter Middle School with a knack for computers and technology.
Additionally, he urged school board members to leave intact the resources for technology coordinator Bill Vrooman. "He needs assistance in what he’s doing," Hendrix said. "Don’t cut him any more, at a minimum."
Cuts have been made throughout the division for the past several years as a result in the downturn in the economy. School board vice chairman Jen Little pointed out that when she joined the board in 2008, the school budget was closing in on $15 million. Now, five years later, the board is asking for $12,793,180. Over that time, a number of positions have been lost through attrition and layoffs. "How much leaner can you be?" Little asked.