SHS to leave New Tech Network next year

After a decade of being part of the New Tech Network, Scottsburg High School will sever ties with the national organization based in Napa, Calif., but will keep the key tenets — project-based learning, community service, and school culture — that New Tech has ingrained into the Scottsburg High School community.

“We decided we did not want to make a quick decision and spent time thinking about it,” Principal Chris Routt said during the Scott County School District 2 Board meeting on Feb. 23. “Going forward, we will not join the New Tech Network. Teachers who teach at New Tech will still be teaching at Scottsburg High School. Teachers will still be teaching PBL, project-based learning.”

French teacher Ondra Couch, one of the original and current New Tech teachers when the first New Tech class started in 2010, said New Tech’s culture pushes beyond project-based learning. The culture focuses on respect, trust, responsibility, family and real-world involvement. 

“I’ve been a teacher in the New Tech program for the last nine years, and it will always have a special place in my heart. I was able to create some amazing, authentic projects with my students. My favorite project came from our World Perspectives class (who are now seniors) where we raised money for a water purifier to be placed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. That was amazing,” English teacher Tiarra English said.

“We are working to bring that strong sense of culture that New Tech has to the whole campus at Scottsburg High School,” Routt said during the school board meeting. “Next school year — assuming we are in a post-pandemic school year — we want to have the whole campus involved in community service.”

The discussion about moving to one learning management system versus using two started last spring, Routt said. When the school decided to use Canvas alone and not Echo and Canvas, the talk moved to leave the New Tech Network altogether. Each year, the school pays about $16,000 to the New Tech Network to be part of the national network, according to school board minutes.

Couch said another reason to leave the New Tech Network works as a way to create a unified campus, where all the teachers work under one roof, one building.

“We have been told that a major reason is we all need to be safe under one building and not divided under two, which promotes student safety. We were also told that when we are in two buildings it divides the staff and does not promote good staff culture,” Couch said. “They also told us that we could still teach our project-based learning; however, we were still to be eventually put in the main building after construction takes place at the main building.”

“While we’ve made some unforgettable memories as a program, I am excited to be a part of the whole campus. There are a lot of kids I haven’t had the opportunity to teach because we have had two separate programs. By having one campus, I will get the opportunity to teach more kids and that’s exciting. The New Tech program ending is bittersweet for me,” English said.

While the decision to leave the New Tech Network will start for the 2021-2022 school year, some Scottsburg New Tech High School graduates took to social media, even creating an online petition, to keep the high school part of the New Tech Network.

“As an Education Major at Hanover, I cannot count how many times I have given praise to New Tech in my classroom or explained what New Tech was, and the bonds it creates between people,” graduate Brittany Cunningham said on a Facebook post. “New Tech teaches more than just the normal curricula, it teaches students about real-world scenarios. From working with others, taking responsibility, creating roles in a group, being able to publicly speak and present amongst peers are just a few of the things New Tech does.”

On Feb. 3, Cunningham created a Change.org petition, where 250 people supported her cause and 328 people signed the petition, to “Give New Tech a Voice.”

“Lots of students reached out because they were taught to have a voice and they used it. It wasn’t just the A-average students, but all students. I am very proud of them to have come together because it was like their last real-world project. They were ready to do whatever it took,” Couch said.

Although the New Tech program is coming to an end, Couch said she will always take what she has learned from this program and will use it in her education career.

“Sometimes it’s hard to let good things go,” Couch said.

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