New cameras in Forrest City High classrooms meant to improve teaching

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FORREST CITY, Ark. -- Cameras will soon be "rolling" in classrooms at Forrest City High School as part of a "School Improvement Grant."

School officials said the cameras can only be used as a "real-time coach" for teachers and not for security.

The project received mixed reactions from people in Forrest City, but school administrators said the technology is meant to help not hurt.

"We're always looking for ways to do a good job, even better," said Willie Rhodes, an Assistant Superintendent of Operations for the Forrest City School District.

Rhodes said the dozens of cameras and microphones will be installed at Forrest City High , were not intended to record student misbehavior.

The "School Improvement Grant,"  was very specific.

"According to the grant, the cameras have to be used strictly for education and education purposes and for instructional improvement," said Rhodes.

WREG was told some cameras would be set up in common areas like the cafeteria, auditorium, library and Mustang arena,  while others would be in classrooms.

Rhodes said cameras and mics won't be continuously recording.

"These cameras will allow teachers to "opt in" or choose to "opt out" of having the classes videoed and feedback later on. It's strictly on a voluntary basis," he said.

Rhodes stressed classroom recordings would not be used for teacher evaluation but rather for something called "real-time coaching."

Still the idea that "big brother" is watching didn't appeal to everyone.

"I wouldn't like it and I don't think other people would either," said Senior Desmond Kirkland.

Kirkland said he was worried the recordings could be used against students.

"It's "straight" if they use it for the teachers, but if they use it to spy on kids I don't think they should use it," he said.

Margaret Hardimon said she liked the idea because the cameras would at least hold everyone accountable.

"If they're going to do it I think it's a good idea. At least they can see exactly what the children are doing and what the teachers are doing as well," she explained.

The cost of the camera system would be close to $160 thousand and should be operational when students return from summer vacation.

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