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Friday, September 6,  2002 E-mail This Article
Gov. King visits Kittery school as laptop program begins

By JENNIFER L. SAUNDERS

Democrat Staff Writer

KITTERY, Maine ó Shapleigh Middle School hosted a special guest Thursday as Gov. Angus King spoke with students about the key role they play in making the laptop initiative a success.

"The whole world is watching you today," King told the sixth- through eighth-grade students after the greeted him with a standing ovation in the gymnasium Thursday morning.

Kingís plan to supply every seventh-grade student in the state with a Macintosh I-book computer has come to fruition, with the laptops going into the classrooms this fall.

Although he has been praised by educators for endorsing the plan to use surplus budget money in 1999 toward the program, King was quick to say he did not do it alone. He praised the Maine Legislature for its support, and introduced Sen. Ken Lemont, R-Kittery, and Rep. Stephen Estes, D-Kittery, who were in attendance with many Kittery School Committee members and Commissioner of Education J. Duke Albanese.

King praised Estes, in particular, for his efforts on the Legislatureís Education Committee. He also expressed appreciation for The Gates Foundation, MBNA and National Semiconductor for contributing a combined $2.5 million in funding and training support to the laptop initiative. And while King spoke with enthusiasm about the world of opportunities computers will open for students, he was quick to point out there are dangers.

"You have a real responsibility here because if you misuse them, this wonít keep going," he said.

Currently, King said funding is in place to expand the program for all seventh- and eighth-graders in 2003. After that, however, he said, it will be up to a new governor and Legislature to decide how to handle the program.

"There are a lot of people who donít think this is such a good idea ... They think Iím nuts," he told the students, and then urged them to prove the nay-sayers wrong in the year ahead.

King spoke of the importance of having goals, going on to higher education and using computers as the tools to access information and attain those goals.

"The whole idea of this is to give you the key to the 21st century ... Itís opening the door for you to information," he said.

However, King stressed, the computers are only as good as the people who will be using them.

"This is about helping the teachers to get you to learn. The teachers and you, acting as partners, are whatís going to make this work," he said.

Superintendent of Schools Larry Littlefield and Shapleigh Principal Greg Goodness urged their students to recognize the meaning behind Kingís decision to visit Kittery.

"Youíre the reason the governor is here today ... There are hundreds of schools that have laptops just like ours, but the governor chose Shapleigh Middle School," Littlefield told the students.

Shapleigh Middle School served as one of nine "exploration schools" in the state to test the laptop initiative during the spring. Seventh-grade teacher Mark Gunter is a Regional Integration Mentor for teachers in other area schools.

Democrat Staff Writer Jennifer L. Saunders can be reached at 1-207-363-4413, or jsaunders@fosters.com

© 2002 Geo. J. Foster Company

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