Rock Hill superintendent’s departure won’t affect future of iRock

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comAugust 31, 2013 

Students Lakiea Kirkland, Cameron McClenningham, Jaron Williams and James McKinney show off their iPads as the iRock initiative program gets underway at Saluda Trail Middle School


Two summers ago, in 2012 Rock Hill schools Superintendent Lynn Moody announced “iRock” – an initiative to incorporate technology, specifically iPads, into daily instruction in schools across the district.

Many meetings, proposals, discussions and negotiations later, and every student in grades four through eight and all ninth graders in one high school either have a personal iPad or will be getting one in the next few weeks.

There are plenty more classroom sets available, and its a rarity to see an administrator or a teacher without a district iPad in hand. Christopher Smith, director of staff development, says the district now owns nearly 10,000 of these devices.

Moody’s vision, announced so many months ago, has come to fruition.

Now, Moody is leaving.

At the same school board meeting last week in which Smith lauded the success of implementing iRock, Moody announced that she would become superintendent of the Rowan-Salisbury School System in North Carolina, and that she would be gone by the end of September.

But Smith and others in the district who have pushed iRock from idea to reality say Moody’s departure won’t stop the multi-year, $9 million initiative from moving forward.

“Great leaders establish a vision, and they build capacity to make that vision happen,” Smith said. iRock “is now our community’s vision.”

iRock is about more than just the device, said Luanne Kokolis, associate superintendent for planning and program support. It’s about creating an environment in which students are being prepared for the 21st century and equalizing opportunities for all students.

Walking away from iRock would be foolish, she said.

“That’s a belief system,” Kokolis said. “And to abandon that would be an implosion.”

The support of the school board is important to the future of iRock, too, Kokolis said, and board members have shown no sign of backing down.

“Our school board has been very supportive and been clear they expect us to carry on,” Smith said.

Moody’s departure won’t have any affect on iRock and its future, board Chairman Jim Vining said, but iRock will change and evolve.

It’s supposed to, he said, no matter who’s in charge.

“We’re going to continue on with some form of digital transformation,” Vining said, “and, hopefully, it’s going to be something that’s always evolving.”

Although the new school year has only been under way for two weeks, Kokolis and Smith said the iRock leadership team is already starting the planning process for upcoming years.

If the new superintendent is hired by the second semester, Kokolis said, he or she will be a part of the planning process for iRock next year.

The iRock leadership team is confident the school board will look for a superintendent who shares a vision similar to iRock and the implementation of 1:1 classrooms, Smith said.

“Our school board will look for a superintendent that shares our values and beliefs,” he said.

At Finley Road Elementary School, second grade teacher Carrie Gaffney is in her third year with a classroom set of iPads for student use. She called Moody “visionary,” but said support for the program is all over every level of the district’s staff – and that won’t change with Moody’s departure.

“Dr. Moody has done her part,” Gaffney said. “There are so many teachers out in the district doing great things.”

Not everyone in the community is as eager about the big changes in the district that Moody’s iRock initiative has inspired.

Melonie Grantham, mother of a Rock Hill school district fifth grader, does not support giving every student a device like an iPad.

Too much money and attention is being given to technology, she said, when students aren’t getting enough education in academic basics and there aren’t enough regular textbooks for all the students to use them.

“The way the world is going today, technology is important,” Grantham said. iRock “would probably be better implemented in the higher grades.”

Her son, she said, knows how to use an iPad, but can’t write in cursive. She doesn’t understand how the district expects him to keep track of an expensive electronic device when he can’t remember to bring his binder home.

Grantham doesn’t understand how Moody and the board could designate $9 million for a single project.

“I’m looking forward to a new superintendent because I believe (Moody) is not the superintendent for my child,” she said.

Smith and Gaffney said they understand how and why some parents and others are resistant to iRock. It’s a culture change, Smith said, and adjustment takes time.

“There haven’t been a lot of big changes (to education) recently,” Gaffney said. “This is a big difference.”

While planning on the next phase of iRock, Kokolis said, parent and student feedback will be taken into account.

But there’s no real sense in going back, she said, especially since one third of the country is utilizing 1:1 in classrooms.

“It’s happening,” Kokolis said of technology transformation.

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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