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Cogs are beginning to mesh to put Utah's $15 million technology initiative into motion.

The naming of a project director for the Technology Office will enhance the ability of local school districts to get approval for plans to spend their share of the initiative money. Money from the initiative passed by the 1990 Legislature will be distributed to school districts late this month, but none of it can be spent until individual district plans are OK'd.The appointment of E. Curtis Fawson, professor of instructional technology at Brigham Young University, as project director was announced Wednesday during the annual meeting of the Utah School Superintendents Association in Park City's Olympia Hotel.

"I hope we can focus (technology efforts) on the needs of students," Fawson told reporters. "Technology is not a panacea, but there are some things it can do and do extremely well."

Technology in the classroom has the potential to relieve teachers of tedious administrative tasks and allow them more teaching time, Fawson said. The trend has been to try to adapt industrial models for technology to education, he said. "We need to look at some new approaches."

Fawson has been involved in developing technological support programs for special education and other instructional uses and hopes to encourage development of Utah programs that will provide models for the districts as they plan how to spend their technology money.

Public education will receive approximately $13.5 million of the total $15 million appropriated by the Legislature, with the rest going to higher education.

James R. Moss, former state school superintendent who will officially become executive director of the Utah Partnership for Educational and Economic Development July 1, told the superintendents that many aspects of the partnership's objectives are falling into place. Several committees have been named for oversight and fund raising.

Moss said a commitment to raise $10 million from non-government sources to match the legislative appropriation is crucial.

The superintendents agreed that further funding from the Legislature may depend to a large degree on meeting the $10 million commitment. Over the next few years, the Legislature is expected to contribute another $45 million to the technology effort with hope of generating up to $200 million with the addition of private, vendor and local education support.

The education leaders said they want to be part of the effort. Suggested ways to raise the money included district taxing, soliciting from the private sector, using the resources of state and local education foundations and tapping federal funds.

More discussion will precede efforts to obtain the promised match, said Richard E. Kendell, Davis superintendent and the association's representative to the partnership's steering committee. The relative roles of the steering committee, the technology initiative office and related committees have not been fully defined yet, he said.

Opening the convention, USSA President John W. Bennion said the superintendents should prepare to take a position in regard to a tax initiative to remove sales taxes from food. The initiative will be on the November ballot.

"If the state loses $90 million to $100 million in tax revenues, public education will take a share of the cuts," said Bennion. The state's public education system gets most of its money from income taxes, which would not be affected by the initiative.