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Technology, Security, Budget Discussed at Westfield Board of Education Meeting

Patricia Harris

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 • 12:25pm

WESTFIELD, NJ—The Westfield Board of Education considered the efficacy of its technology initiative begun two years ago during its Tuesday night meeting.

The discussion followed a presentation by two experts who have been appointed as master technology teachers, Nancy Latimer and Jeanine Gottko. The teachers described ways they have supported classroom teachers at all grade levels in using iPads and various other computers in their lessons.

Their comments led board president Richard Mattessich to ask them if they believe the technology initiative is working and how the board could know if they are continuing in the right direction. He indicated that information will be helpful as the board develops its budget for the 2013-14 school year.

Latimer responded she has found that using iPads at the high school level has been challenging because of the need to create content for specific subjects.

“They’re not the right tool for every job,” she noted.

Gottko, who offers support for grades K-8, said as a result of technology, “There has been a huge leap. The iPad carts have been wonderful.”

She also noted that offering classroom teachers professional development classes has been helpful.

Latimer said “the extra push of support” she offers by being in the classroom “has been tremendous.”

Board member Ann Cary asked if in upcoming years the board should concentrate on furnishing iPads or laptops to replace outdated or inoperative ones.

Gottko said at the elementary level, more laptops are needed.

Board member Gretchan Ohlig wondered aloud whether the district should extend the one-year contract for the master technology teachers.

“I feel I’m just starting to hit my stride,” Latimer replied.

Paul Piero, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and program, jumped into the discussion by saying, “They’re covering a lot of ground.”

He added he has been meeting with principals to promote the use of technology and is trying to increase the visibility of the master teachers.

 “It was built and they are coming,” he summarized. “We want to make sure no one is left behind.”

On another budget-related topic, Cary asked Superintendent Margaret Dolan when the board could expect to hear about security needs for the schools. She brought up the issue after hearing from Business Administrator Dana Sullivan that security is at the top of the list of district priorities this year, in light of recent shootings in Newtown, Conn.

Dolan replied that she had just had a meeting that day with the town’s Emergency Management Committee, including the police chief, and those meetings take place monthly.

She also said measures that could be taken immediately have been taken, and other efforts are ongoing. She said she will be meeting in a few weeks with county officials and is exploring if federal grant money is available.

The superintendent did agree to schedule a formal presentation, cautioning, “We don’t want to give every detail … If I’m vague, that’s intentional.”

At the beginning the meeting, the board heard about a newly released e-book “Of Mice and Men” that features comments from six students who were at Roosevelt Intermediate School last year.

The students came to the attention of the publisher because of a program in which they met with students from a Plainfield school to discuss themes of the book. They were subsequently invited to New York City to tape their comments.

The board honored the students, their English teacher and the administrator who approved of the exchange program by presenting them with a certificate.

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