Classroom computer idea has local connections

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 6, 2003

It is not very often that Mississippi gets national headlinesfor being the first in education, but we recently made headlinesacross the nation as the first state to place a computer withInternet access in every classroom. With 32,354 classrooms, that isquite an accomplishment for the poorest state in the union.

The credit for the idea goes to two former Brookhaven residents- Tom and Bob Pittman. Their father was the Methodist ChurchDistrict Superintendent for the Brookhaven District in the late1960s. They both are graduates of Brookhaven High School.

The idea came as a challenge to Mississippi business leaderswhen Bob was asked to speak to the Mississippi Economic Council asits keynote speaker for the 1999 annual meeting. At the time, Bobwas the CEO of America Online.

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Brother Tom, who is the editor and publisher of the DeSoto TimesToday – a daily newspaper in Hernando, took the idea, generatedcommunity support, raised more than $100,000 and by August of 2000had a computer connected to the Internet in each classroom ofDeSoto County’s 23 schools.

The idea was taken to Governor Ronnie Musgrove. He created atask force, using DeSoto County as the model, to find a way to takethe program statewide. Over a two-year period, the group raised thenecessary $40 million to complete the task last week.

An idea and persistence by a couple of former Brookhaven boyswill pay huge dividends for Mississippi school children in thefuture and has placed Mississippi as a leader in educationalinitiatives.