News, Waterford

WGSD board wrangles over AI policy

By Dave Fidlin

How should artificial intelligence be applied in classrooms?

This was a question Waterford Graded School District officials wrangled over at a recent School Board meeting as a number of policies went under the microscope for review.

Neola, a consulting firm, works with WGSD on a contractual basis. The firm, which as relationships with more than 1,550 school boards in six states, recently presented WGSD with a number of policies for review, including one in AI.

After a robust debate at the most recent WGSD School Board meeting on Jan. 22, officials opted to hold off on a policy for the foreseeable future on the dos and don’ts about AI and its implementation in classrooms.

One sticking point of the AI policy in its draft state is the delicate balance between positive and negative impact. The original iteration of the policy gave AI a positive tone, in terms of verbiage, though the board has been seeking a more neutral stance on the emerging technology.

“AI could have a positive impact and, therefore, we need to have a policy,” board member Noah Wishau said. “Saying it has an impact doesn’t indicate that we don’t need to have a policy.”

Superintendent Tony Spence also spoke to the rationale behind the AI policy and the balance in tone and language within the draft document.

“It recognizes the potential positive impact of AI within the district,” Spence said. “It wasn’t giving it a nod, one way or the other. It was simply talking about the potential for the future.”

While the board and administrators have not come up with a firm consensus on specific language within the AI policy, there was general agreement protocols need to be in place as the technology continues to grow in influence.

“At the end of the day, we need to have a policy,” Wishau said.

Spence said he envisioned the AI policy having a number of applications to day-to-day district operations across WGSD’s four schools.

“AI, if not managed, could be difficult,” Spence said.

The policy would be designed to apply to students, Spence said, “just to make sure that there’s fidelity in learning, in terms of homework or other things.”

From the perspective of faculty, Spence said, “At the same time, it could have a positive impact, in terms of resources for staff, in terms of how they develop lessons. There’s different ways the policy here could be applied.”

While there is not a formal timeline for bringing back the AI policy, board members directed Spence and other district staffers to bring back a revised version in the near future since the technology’s influence is rapidly impacting various facets of society.

“I would ask that it not come back for the next policy round,” School Board President Mandy Fiehweg said as she underscored her desire to see a new draft as soon as possible.

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