SPRINGFIELD, NJ - Monday night’s Board of Education meeting was scheduled for 7:30 p.m., but with participants being late, the meeting didn’t start until 7:45 p.m. Three members were not present, including President Scott Silverstein, Jacqueline Shanes and Scott Donner. Vice President Marc Miller ran the meeting.
Superintendent Davino reported that on Tuesday the 16th, he would be attending a meeting with the State Office of Emergency Management. This is a follow-up to the Parkland shooting incident and any relevant safety ideas could potentially be turned into action plans. For obvious reasons, these measures will not be discussed with the public.
Local resident Joan Karpf was recognized for the Red Day Beautification project, where she organized her fellow local Keller Williams Real Estate agents to volunteer their time on landscaping modifications at the community (the front entranceway and alongside the theater). This was part of their company’s giving back to the community initiative.
Then quickly, aspects of the budget were voted on. That included unanimous consent on contract renewals, with salaries ranging from a low of $34k for a Secretary, to a high of $155.3k for a Principal. Also accepted by the Board was a Certificate for Payment by a contractor that has been doing interior renovation at the High School. The original budget was $2,751,000, but the completed price came in at $2,850,569.58
Virtually the rest of the meeting was dedicated to a single topic, in the public section of the meeting, where a parent, Jennifer got up to discuss the technology efforts of the district. This mother, the only person in the audience, stood at the podium for over an hour debating the same issue. She was upset because she claimed that Superintendent Davino had not returned her e-mails addressing concerns with computer programs in use at the schools.
The parent’s frustration was that the school was paying for and using programs that were not being supported. Quizlet, for example is a study tool that is no longer an option on school machines. There is no replacement at this time. Teachers are still allowed to use it, but the district’s Technology Department will not support it, whereas it is not a mandated tool. Thus lies the frustration. The parent argued that if we pay the license fees, and we allow its use (even though not mandated), shouldn’t the IT staff be familiar with the programs and offer help when help is needed. Superintendent Davino disagreed and they will not support any programs that are not mandated. He said he was heading up a committee to see which programs are best. The parent asked to be part of that committee, but it was explained that it was strictly an internal committee so parents were not allowed.
Other areas discussed were Google Suite of programs, particularly the use of Google Docs, etc. and Google Drive for students’ sharing of projects. Mr. Davino indicated that this district does not support Google products. When asked why, when other larger districts (like Millburn, Summit and South Orange) use it, the response was “we choose not to support it.” It was later explained the reason is due to it being an open-sourced system and the potential of hacking would compromise the safety of the students. For the same reasons, our district does not support individual e-mail addresses the way other districts do. Again, when asked “why?”, the response was, “we chose not to.”
At one point, Mr. Davino told the parent, “we’ll have to agree to disagree” and the response was ”you’re famous for that line, I’ll get you a shirt with that on it.” Mr. Davino’s retort was “thank-you”. The parent said they will approach the Director of Technology and try to get answers, but she was told that Superintendent Davino has taken on that role as well, and will have it through the end of the school year.
The exchange with that parent and the Superintendent went on for over an hour. Always polite, but at times, voices were raised. Many points and responses were repeated numerous times. Finally, the parent said, “I will agree to disagree with you because you haven’t had an answer for anything I’ve asked today.”
The Superintendent ended with the point that programs (like Study Whiz) are used differently as mandated by individual teachers. Therefore, any questions or frustrations, would need to be taken up with the individual teachers. So while Study Whiz is the only program authorized by the district that allows students to interact with each other, it’s use (or the various options of the program) are not mandatory and are only what a specific teacher allows for his/her class or on a given project.
Mr. Davino also announced that Study Whiz is going away at the end of the school year. It will be replaced by a program called EnCourse. They are, however, still in the process of making comparisons and parallels and studying any limitations.
There was a back-to-back meeting Board meeting scheduled for Monday May 21, but since the agenda is light, it was voted to be canceled. The time next week, therefore, will be allocated for a Policies Meeting.