Group aims to give students iPads, laptops

HILLMAN – A committee of residents and educators hopes to raise $300,000 this summer so they can put computer technology into the hands of 480 Hillman Community Schools students this fall.

The primary goal of Hillman’s Promise is to equip each student with an iPad or laptop computer and high speed Internet access, local businessman Jack Matthias said. That way, students can participate in a variety of educational programs that allow them to learn at their own pace.

Matthias, who owns Thunder Bay Resort, said he came up with the idea last summer, presented it to the school board and got the go-ahead to form the committee.

The Matthias family is no stranger to fundraising campaigns. Matthias said his wife, Jan, raised $90,000 in the early 1980s to help launch the Thunder Bay Community Health Service.

Other committee members are Kara Steinke, retired Judge John Fitzgerald, Debbie Funk, Hillman Superintendent Jason McElrath, Elementary School Principal Shawn Tebo, math teacher Ken Rundell, Dennis Brewer, Erin Brege and Laurene Potter.

Matthias said he estimates it will cost $10,000 to $12,500 to equip each of the school’s classrooms with computers and software, and the name of the donor will be posted on a plaque in the room.

Tax deductible donations will be handled through the Hillman Community Education Foundation, with single donors being sought for each classroom, he said.

Matthias said use of the devices and the software can change the way subjects are taught, sometimes referred to as flipping classrooms, and their use will depend on final approval from the school board. Teachers also will have to be trained how to use the programs.

“Flipping means providing less-formal lectures or group instruction, with the teacher acting more as a coach, mentor and tutor to students as they learn online.”

The concept isn’t new in Hillman.

Fifth -and sixth-graders in Rundell’s class are using iPads instead of textbooks this year, Tebo said.

“All their work is done on an iPad and they work at their own pace,” she said. “In effect, it’s a paperless classroom.”

But the school doesn’t have the funds to provide the rest of the student body with the devices, Tebo said, making Matthias’ effort valuable. When her students head to junior high, they will be able to continue to learn through the iPad system.

Matthias said the committee also has other goals, including a tougher challenge of raising enough money to provide each graduating senior with a $10,000 to $12,500 scholarship for their first year of college or trade school.

For more information or to volunteer, call Matthias at 657-6996 or email him at

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.