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RSS recognized in White House announcement

It’s not every day your school district shows up in a White House press release, Andrew Smith, director of digital innovation for Rowan-Salisbury Schools said.

The district was recognized in a Saturday White House press release for being a leader in digital innovation and computer sciences.

In the release, President Obama announced his Computer Science for All Initiative, which focuses on teaching computer science skills such as coding to students while they are still in school.

The initiative would provide $4 billion in funding for states through next year’s budget according to the release, and $100 million to districts to increase access to hands-on computer science in K-12 classes.

It would begin this year using $135 million in investments from the National Science Foundation and the Corporation for National Community Service to train computer science teachers.

The proposal, backed by technology firms including Apple, Google and Microsoft, will be included in Obama’s fiscal 2017 budget, to be released Feb. 9. Teaching basic coding to more grade-school children is necessary to expand the U.S. economy, Obama said.

“In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill — it’s a basic skill,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly television and radio address. “I’ve got a plan to help make sure all our kids get an opportunity to learn computer science.”

In the news release, the Rowan-Salisbury School System is commended as one of more than 60 school districts nationwide who are committed to expanding computer science and STEM opportunities for students. The list also contains big districts such as the Houston Independent School District, San Francisco Unified Schools and Orange County, Fla. schools.

“I think that’s very positive, and I hope it’s encouraging to our teachers that they are leading the way in a number of these areas,” Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody said.

It’s an honor that the Rowan-Salisbury School System received thanks to an existing partnership with Digital Promise’s League of Innovative Schools, Smith said. The league is composed of districts dedicated to changing schools through digital innovation.

“Really what the White House is doing is kind of recognizing us for the work we’re doing,” Smith said.

The president has been focused on increasing student access to computer sciences for some time, Smith said, and White House officials requested League of Innovative Schools districts submit a list of ways they are equipping students for a digital world.

“We’re just supplying them with what we think are very novel things,” Smith said.

Smith said he wrote up the submission for Rowan-Salisbury, and detailed district highlights such as the mobile STEM lab, the free STEM masters in education program offered to R0wan-Salisbury teachers, 3D printing and 3D modeling classes at Salisbury High, the hour of code and a partnership with Horizons Unlimited.

“It kind of shows that RS is a leader, a thought leader, in computer science,” he said.

The Charlotte-Mecklenberg and Iredell-Statesville school districts also received recognition.

“Our teachers have worked hard to try to be innovative, and have taken some risks to step out, and I think while we’re in the middle of change and we’re moving ahead, we forget how far we’ve come,” Moody said.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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