Madison School Board Hears Technology Update, Discusses Lunch Issues

Superintendent of Schools Michael Rossi challenges the state Board of Education. Credits: Liz Keill
Technology coordinator John La Pierre updates the board on high tech changes. Credits: Liz Keill
President Mark Vidovich of Pomptonian Food Service meets with parents and board members. Credits: Liz Keill
MADISON, NJ – The district’s technology initiative has made vast strides in the last 10 years, technology coordinator John La Pierre told the Board of Education at its Jan. 22 meeting.
In 2002, the district had 150 computers and two technical specialists. Today, there are 950 computers and three technicians. The Technology Task Force has made inroads in terms of faster speed for computers, wireless accessibility and broader use of smart boards. LCD projectors have improved and networking hardware has been replaced. In addition, computers are 10 times faster, he said. A virtual server environment is being created, which will result in better performance. The task force is implementing a district wide wireless network and replacing 50 to 160 LCD projectors. “It’s a sophisticated wireless system,” La Pierre said.
In addition, online grade books and report cards have been created, an online version of Fast Math was installed as well as installation of Smartboards for K-2. La Pierre explained that low key microphones, somewhat like necklaces, can be worn by teachers. Studies have shown, he said, the emphasis on the voice helps students concentrate and learn.
La Pierre said his team is responsible for 80 -100 emails a day, 10-12 computer service requests, web postings and state reports. “We maintain 240 phones throughout the district, and that’s a big one,” he said. They also facilitate budget prep, training and workshops. “Moving forward, we need to determine the direction of future computer purchases, a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) initiative and replace older laptops.” He said he wants to develop a three to five year technology plan for the district’s classrooms.

La Pierre said he also works closely with the Madison Education Foundation and discusses applications for technology requests with the foundation’s committee and teachers.
Superintendent of Schools Michael Rossi shared a letter he sent to the state Board of Education. “They’re trying to implement all this too fast and too soon,” he said. “The letter speaks for itself.  I’ve attempted to inject some reason and a more timely approach for rolling out these initiatives.”
He added, “We’re not afraid to work. This is just overload.”  He urged those present to go to the website and look at the Common Core, which requires 25 or 30 tests. “It’s pretty dramatic. We don’t need wholesale reform. I feel very passionate about this,” he said.
In other board news, several parents addressed the lunch situation at Central Avenue and Kings Road schools. According to one parent, there have been incidents of sour milk, running out of entrees and blood on some bagels. President Mark Vidovich of Pomptonian Food Service explained that one worker had cut herself cutting bagels, but did not report it. She was subsequently dismissed but offered to have a blood test. There was no danger of infection, he said. Parents also brought up the inefficient process for lunchtime, including long lines for snacks and various delays. Dr. Rossi and Business Administrator Gary Lane said they would visit the schools during lunch time to observe the situation.
A proposed school calendar for 2013-14 has been distributed. Board of Education President Lisa Ellis has asked for feedback and suggestions regarding the proposal.
Parent Patricia Kelly asked about the student ski trip to Vermont. Rossi said the trip had been cancelled for several reasons: insurance, the number of non-Madison students involved and chaperones who were not connected with the district. He explained this was not a Madison High School initiative and that the school has no authority or insurance to cover it. According to Lane, the district does not have a Ski Club, but the outing could be taken over by the Recreation Department.

A concussion education program has been scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29, at Madison high School. Speakers will be John Gallucci, Jr. and Diana Toto.

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