Education Spotlight

Randolph BOE Hears Technology Update for the District

Peter Emmel, Director of Technology, presents his 2017 priorities to the board. Credits: Danielle Wilson

RANDOLPH, NJ - Peter Emmel, the Director of Technology for Randolph Schools, presented his technology goals for the 2017 budget during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

“The top priority is data security on our network,” Emmel began. “Specifically around ensuring that outside forces, or inside forces, are not able to breach any of our secure data, like student records.”

The technology team will be improving internal processes and systems to keep passwords protected from “unfortunate acts against our network.”

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Next, the team will focus on infrastructure of the physical switch equipment.

“In the past three years, we’ve been increasingly adding systems to the network to support online testing, such as PARCC, ACCESS for ELLs, and the endless sea of online testing,” he said. “Our goal is that the physical equipment can handle that load as well as any initiatives that the curriculum supervisors throw at us.”

The wireless network is another top goal for the technology team. Emmel continued, “What we’re doing is consistently reviewing each building, spot-checking locations, and actively looking at ways to expand more and more devices on an ever growing platform of BYOD [Bring Your Own Device] that we have.”

He mentioned that many of the current wireless-related problems are due to the web filter in place, instead of actual wireless failure. The focus is now on educating the students and staff about the filter restrictions.

The team also replaces one-fifth of the district computers each year, ensuring that no computer is older than five years old.

“We’ve got a lot of great technology out there, new software that our teachers are pushing in the curriculum, and we want to make sure we can support that in any capacity possible,” Emmel explained. “So we’re purchasing computers that have a guaranteed five-year lifecycle and doing our best to keep them replaced, so that way we don’t fall behind the technology curve.”

Installing virtual desktops throughout the district has helped to lower equipment costs. These can be used for general-use computers, such as computer in the library, where specific software is not required.

“We have a lot of labs, that if we can virtualize that equipment, we reduce the overall cost.” Emmel said. “Virtual computers give us a lot more longevity, lasting anywhere from 10-15 years... and reduce costs by costing [close to] $275.”

Every summer, the team updates the operating systems on the computers to the next available system.

Currently, Windows computers are running on Windows 7; however, they will be updated to Windows 10 this summer. Mac computers are typically updated when the newest operating system is released, since the district uses fewer Macs.

The technology team also works with security to ensure the physical security of the buildings. Fernbrook and Randolph Middle School received state-of-the-art PA systems to allow communication during emergencies. The high school PA system will be installed over the summer.

Security will be improving the card access system to receive email and text alerts when doors are left open throughout the building.

Emmel addressed power-resiliency as a goal for 2017. Part of the 2017 budget will go towards updating battery backups and generators throughout the facility. “If a building loses power, we shouldn’t lose access to all of our fantastic technology systems.”

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