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Livingston BOE Meeting Addresses Superintendent's Leave and Technology Issues

Jeremiah Lim

Tuesday, June 3, 2014 • 2:00am

LIVINGSTON, NJ - The Livingston Board of Education announced the end of Superintendent Dr. John Alfieri’s tenure with the district on Monday night.

Alfieri began a leave of absence from the district in April, due to what has been described as a personal matter. The leave will technically be extended to June 30, when the resignation will officially take place.

“After considerable deliberation, both the Board and Dr. Alfieri have come to the realization their relationship is not the right ‘fit’ for either of them, and that their interests are best served by parting ways at this juncture,” Board President Barry Funt said.

Interim Superintendent of West Orange Public Schools Jim O’Neill will step in to serve the same function for the Livingston District on July 1. Funt praised O’Neill for “over 40 years of experience” in school administration, primarily in the Chatham and Roxbury districts.

Business Administrator Steven Robinson will continue to serve as interim superintendent until that time.

Technology Update

Robinson and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Mary Oates laid out a five-point plan to construct the District Technology Vision, ideally a unifying philosophy for how technology will be used in the District in the future.

  1. An audit of current district infrastructure, including the number of technological assets (laptops, tablets, smartboards, etc.) currently in the district’s possession, as well as the efficacy and overall health of those assets. Robinson also emphasized the need to examine the district’s technology infrastructure—such as bandwidth capacity and wiring—and how that infrastructure can be expanded to meet new needs. The audit will be completed no later than August 1, and will cost no more than $20,000 according to Robinson’s estimates.
  2. The formation of a technology committee composed of parents, current students, recently graduated students, teachers, Board members and administrators. Positions for parent and student representatives are still open. Robinson encouraged interested parents with technological experience to submit a resume or a letter of interest by June 9. Student members will be recommended by their building administration. The committee will convene its first meeting on June 16. The committee will work with a selected outside consultant to construct the overarching technology plan. Consulting costs associated with the plan will not exceed $10,000 according to Robinson’s estimates.
  3. Purchase of devices for PARCC testing according to priorities, no later than August 1, with cost to be determined.
  4. Professional staff development so that teachers will be conversant with any new technology they are required to use. “Our teachers are very capable and dedicated, but the fact is that some are at different levels than others [in terms of using technology].” To that end, the professional development program will be tiered and conducted in stages to meet the needs of individual teachers.
  5. Curriculum and course instruction. Oates emphasized the need for specific content skills, as well as consistent measures of accountability across all schools in the district.

Robinson said that he has been in talks with three candidates for the position of outside technology consultant. Questioned about the relationship between the technology committee and the consultant, Robinson suggested that much of the day-to-day legwork will be done by the committee, with the consultant using his or her expertise to guide the overall mission of the project. While the consultant will make input about the District Technology Vision, the final decision power will rest with the committee.

“The committee is trying to get the ball to the 10-yard line and the consultant will bring us into the end zone,” Robinson said.

Board member Arthur Altman advocated for service level agreements between the district, the consultant, hardware vendors and the IT company employed by the district.

Altman  said,“We need to establish a baseline for what it is acceptable for our products. If it takes over 10 minutes to boot a computer or search on Google, that’s not effective. We want to have it in writing what our expectation for performance is.”

Altman also suggested selecting a consultant with working knowledge of technological trends in school districts across the country.

“There are districts that are doing some amazing, forward-thinking things with technology,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s in Tacoma, Washington or wherever. We shouldn’t limit our comparisons to just New Jersey.”

Multiple parents in attendance applauded the Board’s actions in constructing a functional technology initiative with set deadlines.

“I appreciate you taking the time to lay out this plan; it shows the Board is receptive and listening to parent concerns,” Stephanie Cohen said.

Proclamations

Livingston students at all levels were formally recognized for outstanding achievement in academics and extracurricular activities. Each student received a copy of the proclamation in their honor and had their picture taken with a Board member.

The proclamations included:

  • Recognition of achievement in art education, including the Scholastic Art awards and display at the duCret School of Art and Morris Museum.
  • Top prizes in Academically Speaking, a Jeopardy-like competition in which students answered questions in a variety of topics.
  • Prizes in the New Jersey Association for Gifted Children’s Art & Writing competition.
  • High marks in the Lancer Junior Invitational for forensics. Livingston students excelled in Oratorical Declamation and Interpretive Reading (Prose or Poetry).
  • The Junior Model UN earned top marks in the areas of sustainable energy, global education and humanitarian intervention.
  • Outstanding achievement in math education. Heritage Middle School placed first nationally in the Continental Mathematics League Euclidean Division. District students also excelled in the New Jersey Math League, the Essex County Math League and the Math Counts competition.
  • Livingston students were selected for All-State Jazz Band, All-State Chorus and All-State Orchestra.
  • Recognition and reward in the Technology in Music Education Tech Expo and Competition.
  • Achievement in the language arts, including the Le Grand Concours and the National Spanish Exam.

A full list of the students' names is available at the District website.

Recognition of Student Representative

Funt took time to recognize the work of Student Representative Jeremy Knopf, who will move on to become Student Body President at LHS next year. Knopf’s plaudits—including a scholarship from the State Department to study in China this summer—were read aloud.

“Besides all his official awards and recognitions, Jeremy has been an excellent addition to the Board,” Funt said. “He has challenged us and given us a great student perspective. His replacement will have big shoes to fill.”

For his part, Knopf thanked the Board for their receptiveness and attention to student issues.

“If I had a concern or wanted to talk about something, we had a meeting immediately—with pasta,” Knopf said. “Student representative is an important position and I’m thankful to the Board for their help.”

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