Gala’s ‘Black tie-jeans’ funds badly needed for FHS library computers

With the style theme of “Black Tie and Blue Jeans” — dressing up above the waist but wearing jeans and casual footwear, such as boots, below the waist — Second Annual Farragut High School Technology Gala is set from 6:30 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 28, in Rothchild Catering and Conference Center, 8807 Kingston Pike.

With last year a formal event from head to toe, “We would like to see the money used at the gala instead of [dressing] for the gala,” said Emily Lin, FHS technology coordinator plus a math and computer science teacher at the school.

Emcees are sports anchor Mark Packer of WVLT-TV Channel 8 and reporter Sara Mitchell.

“We’re looking to raise $75,000, which will double what we made last year,” Lin said. “... We hope to use that over the summer to go ahead and replace some of the old and failing technology.”

Of immediate concern, “Our library is suffering because a lot of the computers that are in there are older, so that’s where we will start,” Lin said. “We want to start off with fulfilling the need of the whole school first, instead of one specific department or one specific group.

“Right now we’re kind of focusing on the library and replacing some of those old and failing computers in there,” Lin added about the library’s 70 computers. “If we meet our [fundraising] goal we have 20 that definitely need to be replaced in the library. … I could probably add another 10 to that because we can’t upgrade them.”

If enough gala money is left over, “We have three classrooms that currently do not have smartboards, and [purchasing three] would complete the school,” Lin said.

A Farragut High School press release stated other technology goals based on funds from this and future galas: “... educational software, implementation of a 1-[to]-1 device initiative for all students — Lin said this is ‘three to five years away’ — and widescreen projection systems in classrooms and the auditorium.”

With a library of mostly reliable computers, “It will give them consistency for starters,” Lin said. “When they go into the library they would know, ‘40 of us can now get on a machine,’ whereas right now it varies.

“Right now we usually have maybe one class that comes into the library a day. We’ll be able to put two classes in there a day, potentially three, depending on how much money we make,” she added. “And it will allow more students to come in before and after school to access those computers to complete assignments.”

With last year’s ticket sales exceeding 200 according to Lin, “This year we’re going to try for 300 people,” she added.

Tickets are $50 per person and must be purchased either at, or at the “front office of the school” adjacent to the Commons, just inside the school’s main entrance.

Deadline to purchase tickets is 3 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 24, in the office; or midnight, Tuesday, Jan. 24, online according to Lin. There will be no day-of-event/on-site ticket sales.

As for entertainment, “We have a few funny little antidotes that [Packer and Mitchell] are going to do; they’re going to get some crowd participation in some of their stories,” Lin said.

“This year we’re working on securing a certified auctioneer,” Lin said about the live and silent auctions.

Ryan Siebe, FHS principal, said his school is expecting to complete a “comprehensive as-sessment” of its technology needs, and costs to upgrate, by the end of this school year.

With a school enrollment of more than 1,800,

Finding out exactly what the school needs, how much it needs and the price tag, “We’re working really hard to have a comprehensive assessment of what we have now and what we need going forward,” Siebe said.

“We’re trying to develop kind of a three-year plan based on current technology,” he added. “… It should be completed by the end of this school year.

“The problem with that is that technology is always a moving target, there’s always new technology out there that surpasses what previously existed.”

Meeting the requirements for computer-based assessments, for examples, is a struggle “if you don’t have reliable technology,” he said. “We know we would like to have more labs, particularly permanent labs. Those machines have to replaced every four or five years at a minimum; and really, ideally, you’d replace them every three [years].”

As for the one-to-one technology that Knox County Schools including Bearden High and its feeder, West Valley Middle, both have — where iPads are largely replacing textbooks — Siebe said, “there’s no connection between technology and academic results.”

However, “there is a connection between great experiences with technology and the opportunities that affords kids,” he added.

A majority of the FHS fundraising efforts of Farragut Education Foundation “goes to technology; and really it’s that kind of work that has kept us from just being in the dark ages,” Siebe said.

To included special entertainment that has yet to be named, “they’ll auction off a lot of stuff. … And I think this year there’s the potential for an online auction as well for those people who can’t make it to the actual event,” Siebe said about the gala, which also would include accepting donations.

“With that they get a salad, a choice of entrees and dessert plus the entertainment,” Lin said.

“I think this year, because the word is out now about how enjoyable the [inaugural] gala was [last year], and how it has benefitted our students, I feel like now people will be more inclined to help. We’ve already received several donations and several corporate sponsors. I’d say we’re at least halfway to our ticket sales goal right now.”

“I feel confident because the word is out now, and that people understand that Farragut High School does not have much in the line of technology,” Lin added. “Despite the popular opinion that ‘Farragut High School has everything.’

“That is not true.”

Even more variety may be found during this year’s gala auction. “We do have different auction items this year, and some of the same ones from last year,” Lin said. “We’ve had more corporate sponsors and more donations.”

Various FHS “clubs and organizations will make baskets to be auctioned off. Art students are doing some art work that will be auctioned off,” Lin said.