Westfield Board of Education Moves a Few Steps Closer to Improved Technology in Schools; Districtwide Digital Media Specialist Advocated

Parent Barbara Straus complains to the Westfield Board of Education about school bus problems at Tuesday's board meeting.

WESTFIELD, NJ -- The Westfield Board of Education kept the ball rolling on its pursuit of sustained advancement in technology on Tuesday as the Ad Hoc Technology Committee advocated hiring a district-wide media specialist, doing a district-wide survey on the number and location of wireless access points and looking for room in the budget to bring technology advances to fruition.

Committee Chair Mitch Slater said the committee has been working on formulating the district's technology goal and “as we brainstormed ideas, it became clearer that in fact this is not just an exercise in raising dollars, it is a massive undertaking that requires all hands working together through various work streams.”

He added that the district should be wireless probably is a “no brainer” and it needs to ensure sufficient capacity, band width and ongoing equipment and help desk support and “we need to overlay on all this a continuous refresh plan so that any dollars we spend today aren't rendered obsolete just a few years from now.”

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Slater asked the Finance Committee to look at a “rolling technology plan” and “where we can find some room in an already overcrowded budget to make this priority a reality.”

Board Finance Chair David Finn pledged the support of his committee for the effort.

Slater also said the district should study what other districts are doing, especially in terms of hiring a districtwide digital media specialist.

Ad hoc committee member, Rosanne Kurstedt, added the district should not merely emphasize devices and their replacement, but also the need “to embed 21st century skills into the everyday lives of our children,” by integrating the technology into curriculum at all levels.

The push for advances in technology fits into the district's 2011-2012 goals, outlined on Tuesday by Superintendent of Schools Margaret Dolan.

 Dolan said a prime goal is to develop increased opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields by reviewing STEM research with supervisors and administrators, establishing a districtwide staff committee to focus on STEM and researching the work accomplished in other districts.

In line with a second goal--to establish, communicate and model standards for respect and responsibility at all levels--the superintendent cited training of the district's anti-bullying specialists, principals, staff and students in problem solving and social decision making.

She also said a revised student code of conduct to localize state anti-bullying statutory requirements to Westfield would be presented for Board of Education approval in December.

On another matter, two mothers of school children said they still were not satisfied with the level of school bus service provided in the district.

Barbara Straus noted on the E-7 route a second bus had been added, stops had been reduced from 17 to 11 and the route now was “more straight than zig-zag.”

She added, however, parents still were not sure “who was supposed to take ownership of the bus issue--Vogel Bus Company, the school district or the district's transportation department.”

Straus complained buses often “overshoot” routes, buses back up with students onboard and drivers talk on phones with headphones, often not knowing what is going on.

She also said parents were told the routes going home from school were changed from those going to school and parents often did not know where to wait for their children being bused home from school.

Cindy Smith of 17 Woodbrook Circle added children had been told by bus drivers to rush getting onto buses because there had been complaints of buses arriving at schools late.

Both Dolan and Interim School Business Administrator Vincent Yaniro said the actions described were not acceptable.

Yaniro added although he had already heard some of the complaints and addressed them with Vogel parents should e-mail him with the precise time and nature of complaints so he could address them properly.

He also said drivers should follow the same route going to and coming home from school unless traffic conditions or other emergencies prevented them from doing so.

Board members and the business administrator also said they would explore having a school official or someone else associated with the districts on each bus to determine if drivers were following proper procedures.

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