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‘Sending a nice message’

Leahy, Hewlett-Packard help replace school’s stolen computers

DUMMERSTON—Dummerston Elementary students started the school year last Tuesday with 35 new computers, thanks to collaboration between U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft.

The 30 HP ProBook 4425s Notebook PC Energy Star laptops and 5 HP TouchSmart 9100 Business PC desktops with touch-screen technology filled a hole left after $34,000 worth of computers were stolen in June. The new computers were installed before students returned Aug 31.

“I just think it’s a remarkable thing and it sends a nice message,” said Principal Jo Carol Ratti of the donation.

“When I heard about the theft of the school’s computers I knew how big a setback that could be. I also know that schools today are on shoestring budgets and do not have the resources to quickly recover from a loss like this,” said Leahy.

Leahy was joined by Larry Irving, HP’s vice-president of global government affairs, and Frederick Humphries Jr. Microsoft’s vice-president of U.S. government affairs, at a school assembly last Friday.

 Students’ excited whispers bounced through the gym when Ratti and Leahy gave brief demonstrations of the HP TouchSmart on display.

“My wife said not to break anything. She knows me too well,” joked Leahy as he worked the touch-screen computer.

Ratti, and representatives for Leahy and HP, said it was very important that computers be installed and ready for the students’ first day back.

“Computers have become vital learning tools. Students are even more connected to their education today through technology that lets them experience the world from their desks. I see that directly with the online chats I often do with classrooms of students across the state,” said Leahy.

Irving and Humphries told the students and teachers that they’ve visited Vermont before at Leahy’s invitation. Both have collaborated with Leahy on technology issues at the federal level.

Irving, a former White House technology advisor, met Leahy during the Clinton administration.

Leahy always supported the work he did in Washignton, said Irving. That support was one reason he supported Leahy by donating the computers.

The computers were really a gift from Leahy, he said.

“You are very fortunate to have someone like Senator Leahy,” Humphries told the students.

He added, when he saw the students working on the new computers earlier that day, “That makes my day. That makes my week. My dad used to say ‘knowledge is the most important thing someone can have.’”

According to a statement from Leahy’s Washington office, staff members directed Dummerston school officials to an ongoing computers-in-schools program at HP. Irving said the computers were a straight donation separate from an existing program.

The stolen computers were Apple MacBook laptops and some Apple desktop machines. Ratti said the switch to PCs would be easy for the students, since many of them have PCs at home and Microsoft’s software platform is familiar to them.

The new computers are under lock and key. Over the summer, safety and security consultants advised the school in tightening security. 

Investigation into the theft continues. Officers have told Ratti the search may get a second wind now that school has started and people may remember important information as they swap stories.

Some of the computers were recovered in July after being dumped in the Rock River in Newfane.

“It was very aggravating,” said Ratti referring to the waste of school resources.

She says insurance will cover the stolen computers and the school has received half the settlement money to start replacing them.

She says the school will replace the stolen computers in addition to the donated ones so “we’re ahead of the game.”

“It’s a tremendous gift,” said Dummerston School Board chair Amy Dews, who added that the gift demonstrated how something good could come from something bad.

Many of the students were excited to see the new computers.

“They were black computers and much more fancy than work computers,” said student Leo Arney.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #66 (Wednesday, September 8, 2010).

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