tecnology upgrades

The Montclair School District has just announced what it calls, “the most ambitious plan in its history to ensure innovation resources reach every classroom in the District.”

The district states that an internal audit conducted this spring by newly hired District Technology Director Barry Haines, found an inequitable divide within the District, with some schools having an 11:1 student-to-computer ratio, while other schools had a 3:1 ratio. In addition, the audit found that the current, shared school internet connection barely provided students and teachers with the needed bandwidth to access the key foundations for digital learning. More specifically the audit found that the broadband connection provided the same speed that a single home using a connection such as dial up provided in the mid-1990s.

“Montclair has the most highly effective teachers and principals in the state, yet our schools are fending for themselves when it comes to technology and innovation. We need to ensure our District does not become a series of “have” and “have not” schools,” stated Superintendent of Schools Dr. Penny MacCormack.

“All of our schools deserve to be 21st century learning environments, and we must listen and adapt to the needs and requests of our school leaders. Last year, because of a lack of school resources, some teachers brought their own technology devices to teach in our classrooms. In other cases, teachers worked in classrooms that did not even have an effective internet connection. As a former teacher, I am committed to ensuring each teacher in our district has the tools they need to succeed. Our teachers and students deserve both the best resources and a long-term strategy to address this issue,” she added.

smart boardsTo address these findings, the District launched the first stage of its Equity Innovation Plan this summer. The following actions have taken place since May and will be completed near the beginning of the school year:

  • Remediation of the network, enabling District schools to connect to the internet service provider with upgraded bandwidth from 100 MB to 1 GB – a ten-fold increase.
  • Replacement of outdated network equipment in all buildings to align with the newly increased bandwidth and maximize its effectiveness.
  • Procurement of mobile computers for all secondary teachers in grades 6 through 12 as part of the District’s current investment in technology.
  • Installation of state-of-the-art projectors and new whiteboards in 88 core content high school classrooms that replace the pre-1950s chalkboards. This will allow teachers to bring in Web 2.0 resources such as: primary resources in social studies, peer-review capabilities in language arts, manipulatives to understand mathematics concepts, and the ability to project software resources to better understand science concepts.

Board of Education President David Deutsch is happy with the plan.


“Every child in the District should have access to a 21st century classroom and we start by ensuring innovation equity.” says Deutsch.  “As a community, we share the responsibly to ensure that all, not some, schools have strong Wi-Fi and needed computers in the classroom. I commend the work of both Superintendent MacCormack and Mr. Haines for showcasing, and then acting, on this issue for the community. Creating this Technology Equity Plan is a long-term investment for our teachers and our community and will ensure that our students can compete in the future.”

Montclair High School principal, James Earle says the investment is long overdue. “For too long we have talked about a District investment in technology and innovation. We have held community discussions on the issue. I have personally pleaded that we look to modernize our classrooms, yet there has been no action. Today’s investment and the specific steps we are taking are simply long overdue and will make a real difference when we open our school doors in the fall.”

Brian Ford, a teacher at the high school agrees:

Some people (with whom I agree on many other criticisms of the BOE) have questioned the necessity of the tech upgrades and say the money could be better spent elsewhere. I can understand where they are coming from. I would love to hire more teachers to reduce class size or look into restoring health benefits to all teachers’ aides. Also, yes, technology is no panacea — it has to be available, working, understood, and implemented well — it’s not the tool , it’s how you use it. I also believe we need block scheduling more than anything else — but that is a different debate, I suppose.

All that said, the high school was behind other schools in the district and behind many other high schools. Upgrades were sorely needed. It was downright frustrating to teach there sometimes. Some of the upgrades simply get us to where other high schools, including the one where I taught my first 6 years, in 2007 or so. I know it will help morale to enter a building that is more conducive to dynamic instruction. Simple, basic things like plug-and-play projectors in every room and no more videos stalling go a long way for teachers. The availability of laptop (Chromebook) carts with working wireless internet will ease some of the competition for limited computer lab and library space, and can transform a lesson.

Phase I of the District’s Innovation Equity Plan was conducted during the 2014 spring and summer months. Further plans and an outline of Phase II priorities will be announced during the fall of the school year.

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The district has stated, and show in this report, that improvements in technology are long overdue and not solely to facilitate the new online exams schools will take this year to align with the Common Core State Standards —Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exams (PARCC).





25 replies on “Montclair School District Launches “Equity Innovation Plan” to Bring Tech into 21st Century”

  1. This is great.

    But I would rather we have enough teachers and aids so kids can have gym/art/music more than twice a week. And librarians.

    All the tech in the world is no replacement for great teachers, and time (especially little boys) to run around, or for learning about art and culture. Computers and “coding” cannot replace humanity.

    How much is this going to end up costing us? Not the “budgeted” amount, but the true cost?

    Finally, I’m reminded of Clinton’s 90’s proclamation of “wiring” every school. Trouble was, a few years later, wifi came about. And that’s the problem with these long projections of “technology” needs. Things change, and usually get outdated with something better and cheaper.

    Oh, well. I look forward to the SCHOOL TAX-TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT addition to my taxes.

  2. A couple points, professor:

    1: You are such a pessimist!

    2. Technology evolves fast that’s the great thing about it. If we waited around because of fear of upgrading too quickly, we would still be calling each other with rotary phones.

    3. MSW has posted multiple times on moving past the national agenda fights re: Maia Davis and Michelle fine: https://mtcschoolswatch.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/montclair-times-tech-in-montclair-schools-moving-forward/
    and this is a solid step away from those unhelpful arguments.

    4. Wifi didn’t becomes widespread until the mid-00’s, and go look at your wireless router – notice the cable coming out of the back? It connects to a faster cable which connects to the giant cross country/intercontinental backbones. Good wiring is actually essential, even for wireless internet.

  3. Summer isn’t over yet, but I see the spreading of the malicious MSW blog is back. In full swing. That had nothing to do with the Professor’s comments. Just a convenient method for spreading propaganda.

    And should we really believe Montclair has nothing to do with what is going on nationally? Do we operate in a vacuum? Are we better than the rest of the country?

    While I may not always agree with the Professor, on this point I most certainly do. Technology does not replace people, culture and time to run around and be kids. Is this really the best use of our money when we could be reducing class sizes, increasingly the related arts programs, etc.

    I am not opposed to improving technology but I am opposed to it replacing the things our children really need. Especially, since much research has been done to show technology does not equate with improved student outcomes. But smaller class size, more physical activity and arts programs do.

  4. Whoa don’t shoot the messenger. You say convenient I say germane. We’ve heard the attacks from the MCAS crowd (I’m an equal opportunity linker: https://www.facebook.com/notes/montclair-cares-about-schools/cutting-aides-to-buy-tablets-the-wrong-priorities-mcas-news-of-the-week-3514/269866746507589) and the response from MSW. The verdict from the district is that there will be a priority to get our technology at least on par with other districts.

    And yes, we are most definitely better than the rest of the country.

  5. Yes MCAS did provide good information as to why we shouldn’t just be blindly spending money on technology. This was dated from March pertaining to budget hearings.

    It still seems rather convenient that you are linking to a blog that likes to take on MCAS members rather than explain their position. Seems like you are advertising for them. Periodically, people who never post otherwise have provided links to those blogs in very similar fashions. Seems like you could show support for the districts decisions without posting to a blog that seems to have nothing better to do than to attack MCAS. Not sure how that inspires anyone to support the district. And not sure why you are choosing to use this platform to go after MCAS when this story had nothing to do with them and clearly neither does the Professor or his comment. If you support their decision, that’s fine. But why the need to go after MCAS?

  6. Sure I comment about Montclair Schools Watch. Just as I post about marriage proposals, gun violence, and sexism in fashion. When Montclair Schools Watch points out MCAS’s misplaced priorities in areas like technology it is fair for me to note it in a directly related technology article. If you have points to make about why the district shouldn’t make these investments – even though it will make it even harder to catch up down the road – then I’m perfectly willing to listen. So like I said, MSW makes a good point and if you want to read about it go to their blog.

  7. martylorne:

    1) When it comes to how folks choose to spend my money, yes. I have a healthy pessimism. Unlike you, perhaps, I’m not a fan of spending more money thinking that money=quality education. If that were so, then the almost 20K per pupil in Newark would have it’s district at the top.

    2) I’m not suggesting waiting. Rather, that when we have other- HUMAN needs, spending (MY) money on “technology” that if the past is an indication, we won’t properly train or maintain, seems like a waste. NOT that tech is bad. Tech, in limited ways, enhances a quality education- it does not supply one.

    3) I don’t follow Montclair school watch to any real degree, but the post on your link titled: “Cutting aides to buy tablets: The wrong priorities” hits the nail on the head.

    4) You miss the point entirely about copper vs. wifi. THE point was that at one point we needed a copper wire to physically “connect” to every computer, but wifi eliminated that need. So Clinton’s 10 year plan to “wire” became obsolete.

    My point is simple: we cannot offer all this tech, yet continue to eliminate gym, art and aids. Moreover, with the sad state of implementation (far too many teachers cannot even understand the “tech” we might purchase for them), I think MY money is better spent in other areas.

    But it seems that the might tablet will have to come with an app to get kids moving– which is why they are fat!!! (No gym=fat kids & boys quickly classified as “problems”).

  8. Martylorne, you are also missing my pain point. You chose to plug the MSW blog and attack Montclair Cares about Schools even though neither the article nor The Professor’s comments had anything to do with either. This smacks of a smear campaign and lacks sincerity. So, I am asking you to explain your need to attack MCAS when they were never mentioned in this article and why the need to plug a blog that does little more than attack individuals and give weak arguments.

    As for my personal opinion on technology, the Professor does a really good job but as you requested, here a couple of articles that express my concerns:



  9. The point is that if you look at the things MCAS’s leaders are doing like going to anti-reform events in Chicago instead of keeping a local focus it makes them look more like union operatives than concerned citizens. Since technology doesn’t fit with their national agenda they are against it even at the expense of getting our students on par with their peers.

  10. I agree with the Prof. Many think technology is the great panacea, but in educational practice, more does not equal better, and in some ways, it can do harm. For instance, there are studies showing that reading comprehension drops when text is read on a screen as opposed to paper. The district is going to great expense for a dubious outcome.

    Bill Gates sends his kids to a private school that does not have computers. Enough said.

  11. Will the system be “remediated” in time for the start of school? Student schedules, class lists, bus pickup info, class placement, etc. is not yet available due to problems with Skyward. Can some of that money be used to “fix” it, or do we have an app for that?

  12. “The point is that if you look at the things MCAS’s leaders are doing like going to anti-reform events in Chicago instead of keeping a local focus it makes them look more like union operatives than concerned citizens.” There are no leaders in MCAS. It’s a group of concerned parents who all have different strengths and abilities and function accordingly. As for focusing locally, why?????? We have the big wigs pushing this ed reform nationwide living right in town. Why not have Montclair’s FINEST share their expertise and experience now that it has hit home. Furthermore no matter what your position is on unions you can’t deny that there are serious concerns that are growing at alarming rates. Let’s talk about them. I am NJEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. And do you really think what happens nationally doesn’t affect Montclair? Are we in a bubble? People need to see that our public schools are under attack. New Orleans have none left. NONE! they are all Cgarter Schools. Newark is under attack and they are our Neighbors. Should Montclair not care what happens to the school children in Newark? Should we really not care what happens in schools around the country? Do you really think we are immune from things?

    But again to go back to my main comment to Martylorne, Samwich by directing comments at MCAS when these parents weren’t even mentioned in the story and plugging a blog that’s sole purpose seems to be to take down these parents, it feels very much like an attack on Montclair Cares About Schools. If you check Face Book you will see that many NJ Towns now have groups of “Cares” that have sprung up in reaction to what is going on under the Crhristie Administration’s assault on Public Schools. Highland Park Cares About Schools being one such group. They are all groups of concerned parents, with no leaders, just parents interested in their children’s education. Every parent has that right and if they want to work together to voice their concerns that is their right.

  14. For crying out loud, this discussion makes me cringe….even on vacation in a beautiful location. The MCAS is an organization of intelligent, caring people who actually CARE about our schools and students. Why wouldn’t they travel around the country to help out wherever needed? Our country is in the middle of an education crisis! Same as our town. When I think about my child going through another year of test prep (for a test he will never take) it makes me sick. Instead of actual learning our children will more or less be preparing all year for the PARCC test. You are fooling yourself if you think otherwise. What was last year? It was absolute mess. If you weren’t preparing for the Quarterly Assessments, you were preparing for the NJ ASK. Is that true educating? I’m sorry, but to me it is not. So now I am assuming not only will they be cramming for this PARCC, but they will also have to be focused on the new technology. Why?? Because for the first time they will have to be taking their mandated test on computers. I’m all for technology improvements in this district, but lets all get real….it was done for the wrong reason.

  15. “Bill Gates sends his kids to a private school that does not have computers. Enough said”

    This is probably true! The thing is, these reformers think that they can fix public schools without having a CLUE what is really needed. Public schools is exactly that. PUBLIC. You can’t fix them until you deal with the real problems of our students and families. Increasing rigor and tests until their eyes pop out will never fix the true problems. I think other states and communities are coming to that reality way before Montclair is, and quite frankly I’m surprised by that. Is that because our town has a few of the most influential reformers right here in it?

    What we need is better training for teachers, more services for students and like Prof says more gym and activity for our children who don’t get that enough. Let’s deal with the REAL issues first and then maybe we can do all that other ‘stuff’ that reformers are diving into.

  16. Bill Gates, like Obama, the Clinton’s and a host of other well-meaning “supporters” of public education LOVE to tell everyone what to do, but then when it involves their children, they choose otherwise. (Which is their choice.)

    I’d rather my kid be in a little red schoolhouse with a committed teacher, than a “high tech” iPad and App filled “learning community” that believes technology is the answer (or even part of the answer) to helping shape a well-rounded citizen.

  17. “Bill Gates sends his kids to a private school that does not have computers”

    You can’t be serious with that statement!

  18. I think technology is part of shaping a well-rounded citizen. I’m glad the district is making the investments. I don’t know why there is a debate about here spending to update the computers and network vs spending on quality teachers. The budgets are independent from each other.

  19. I am not opposed to technology or to some upgrades. My concerns began with the budget hearings. I felt we were budgeting too much for technology and not enough to other areas. I would like to have seen more budgeted to decreasing class sizes, increasing arts programs, increasing phys ed, bringing back aides to the classrooms, etc. Instead we won’t even have aides in the first grade anymore, our class sizes remain large and speaking of equity, not all of our schools have instrument programs for all of our grades and not all of our magnet programs have been equitably funded.

    As for Bill Gates and the Lakeside Private School, what strikes me is not their technology, which likely they do have excellent technology, it’s that despite Bill Gates pushing for all of these Reforms, Lakeside is immune from them. They have small class sizes and no mention of Common Core or “Career and College Ready” or standardized testing.

    From their website, “The mission of Lakeside School is to develop in intellectually capable young people the creative minds, healthy bodies, and ethical spirits needed to contribute wisdom, compassion, and leadership to a global society. We provide a rigorous and dynamic academic program through which effective educators lead students to take responsibility for learning.

    “We are committed to sustaining a school in which individuals representing diverse cultures and experiences instruct one another in the meaning and value of community and in the joy and importance of lifelong learning. capable young people the creative minds, healthy bodies, and ethical spirits needed to contribute wisdom, compassion, and leadership to a global society. We provide a rigorous and dynamic academic program through which effective educators lead students to take responsibility for learning.

    Sounds like a wonderful environment for learning. One in which I would like for our students. But If Common Core and standardized tests are so awesome, then why isn’t Lakeside participating in these reforms or why doesn’t Bill Gates put his kids in a school that is pushing these Reforms he loves so much?

    So as the Professor pointed out, it’s so easy for Gates and the rest of the people pushing this reform agenda to tell us what to do with our kids while they use their resources to choose differently for their kids.

  20. Folks, let’s not get bent out of shape about this. It’s just a simple tech upgrade that will be helpful for our kids: nothing more, nothing less. For her supporters to breathlessly hype and celebrate it as a glorious “equity distribution” is just plain silly.

    To laud this “achievement” (and the broadcasting of live BOE meetings on the Montclair cable channel) as visionary successes – while conveniently overlooking two years of MacCormack’s expensive, inept, and enraging failures that she’s foisted upon parents, students, and teachers – is delusional.

    If any of MacCormack’s supporters tried to present the completion of these pedestrian tasks as groundbreaking triumphs at their places of work, they’d be laughed out of the office.

  21. I just saw the news that Board meetings will be streamed and broadcast on TV34. We are not tech renaissance but MacCormack does deserve credit for moving the district forward. Hopefully we’ll see more genuinely positive news like this over the coming school year.

  22. And thus, the completion of the pedestrian task is portrayed not as a “groundbreaking triumph” but the more modest “genuinely positive news” where “MacCormack deserves credit for moving the district forward”.

    marty, if you’re not in PR you’ve missed your calling.

  23. I know that “equity” relating to technology is right of our the pro Common Core lexicon (Joel Klein is all over it – https://tv.yahoo.com/video/amplify-ceo-joel-klein-giving-181332814-cbs.html), but seriously: what does it even mean? Does Klein know? Does Deutsch know? Could MacCormack even explain it?

    Bottom line: the district is getting new equipment and improving Wifi access for students. Very nice. But let’s not wax poetic and get all dewy eyed about it, because the motivation behind the move is the PARCC, pure and simple.

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