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June 3, 1997

Website spelling errors, typos mortify school district officials

Mistake-plagued material typed by students for pages on the Internet slips through to a worldwide audience.

By Steve Friess

To enroll you're childeren in kunderfarden, it is improtant and nessary to bring a coppy of a utility bull, even in outlaying areas.

Or so read the World Wide Web sites of the Clark County School District, which included those misspellings and dozens of others in instructions for how to register for school and how to interest children in reading.

The sites, available in their error-ridden forms on the Internet since November, were taken down Monday after the Review-Journal asked about them.

"This is terrible," said School Board Vice President Larry Mason, who vowed an investigation. "If this is true and not somebody's idea of a joke, I'm not a happy camper. This is very embarrassing."

It's true. One site titled "Help Your Child Develop a Love of Reading" has been available for the global Internet audience with the word "children" misspelled as "childeren" seven times.

The words "school," "learning," "knowledge," "helping," "birthday," "library," "paragraphs" and "teeth" all appeared incorrect on other sites. The word "four" was used in place of "for," and the word "your" was used instead of "you're."

Superintendent Brian Cram, whose own greeting on one of the sites misspelled "important," called the site "unacceptable."

"If students were taking the state's high school exit exam for competency and turned in this kind of work, they simply wouldn't pass," Cram said. "Computers these days all are equipped with spell checkers, so at the very least, somebody should have run this through a spell checker. I appreciate the students attempting to help out, but we should have realized this was going to be a public document."

In all, more than 36 words were misspelled or misused.

"It's atrocious," Trustee Lois Tarkanian said. "Some of these are obviously typing errors, but others I believe are spelling errors. When you say 'outlaying' instead of 'outlying,' that's an actual mistake."

The material for the sites was typed by students at the Advanced Technologies Academy in a website management course taught by instructor John Snyder. Snyder said he gave their work to the district's technology office expecting it to be edited, but that never occurred. Instead, technology supervisor Judi Steele said, the sites were put up without change, and Snyder was told to correct the errors.

The pages were never changed, nor did district staff ever check on the matter, Steele said.

"We made the judgment when (Snyder) gave it to us with all the typos that we were going to put it up as a learning experience for the students," said Steele, who said corrected websites will be placed online by June 15. "We thought at that time it would be good for the kids to see something publis hed and to fix it quickly. We didn't expect it to be up there for more than a week or so."

Putting the sites up created a public relations fiasco for the district, school trustees said.

"I'm all for kids working with computers, but part of school process is the editing process," Trustee Judy Witt said. "We want things under Clark County School District's name to be professional and to protect the integrity of an organization that requires higher standards than this."

On one site titled "Help Your Child Read," the name of a pamphlet available from the Children's Book Council in New York City was listed as "Chossing a Children's Book." That poor spelling was used to promote literacy is ironic, a spokesman for the nonprofit Book Council said.

"It does strike me that for a school district to have a website where there are such egregious errors, I would begin to wonder personally about the people running the district and how their inattention to details is affecting the young people going to the school," said Andy Propst, who oversees the Book Council's Internet presence.

The mistakes are unfortunate because they distract from the quality of the material the district is offering to computer users, Trustee Mary Beth Scow said.

"The information's wonderful," Scow said. "I'm really proud of what's on there, but it wasn't proofread, I guess. It looked like someone typed it really fast and didn't go back over it. It's neat that they had students working on it, but it unfortunately wasn't checked back on."


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