DARTMOUTH — Chief Technology Officer Jonathan Gallishaw and his staff are getting high marks from the Dartmouth School Committee after reporting another year of steady progress on continuing district-wide technology improvements. At a June 26 meeting, Gallishaw also detailed some of the “exciting things coming down the road in the future” for the school district in terms of technology.
Gallishaw gave the school board a year-in-review report on upgrades to the school computer network, the addition of hundreds of laptops and Chromebooks to facilitate computer-based achievement testing, and the continued addition of more instructional technology specialists to school staffs.
Older network servers are being replaced, and other infrastructure improvements have helped give the district’s technology network “a good foundation” for expanded operations, Gallishaw said.” We’ve built a sound wide area network” for the district, with 367 Wi-Fi units stationed around its campuses, he noted.
The network upgrades still to come include a mutual link network that will tie all of the district schools to emergency responder networks. Police and fire personnel will soon be able to access school security cameras, intercom systems and telephone lines in every school, he explained.
The tech department is also working on the installation of a new point-of-sale cash register system for the school lunch program, which should be completed this summer. Also in the works is a new district website, scheduled to go on line just before the start of school in September, and a new “all call” phone, e-mail, and text alert system for emergency notifications, Gallishaw said.
Over the summer, his department will also be training in new Google apps, and developing an online registration process for kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students, he noted.
New hardware sent into the classrooms this year included 907 desktop computers, 933 laptops, and 411 iPads, plus another 692 Chromebooks added to the inventory for student testing, Gallishaw said. For the coming school year, 70 new desktop computers and 340 additional Chromebooks are on the way.
The chief technology officer reported that all of the district’s MCAS student testing was done on computers this spring, going smoothly thanks to “a magnificent team effort” by the tech department, principals and staff members, and the teachers and students involved.
“Over 1,800 students took over 81,000 tests over a period of six weeks,” with only a few “minor glitches” quickly overcome by the team, he said. The reorganized tech staff gave great support, helped by the technology aides and building coordinators, he said.
The two instructional technology aides added to elementary school staffs this year performed “to rave reviews,” Gallishaw said. The addition of another technology aide at Dartmouth Middle School has been included in the budget for the coming year, he added.
School Committee member Chris Oliver was the first to commend Gallishaw and his staff for continued progress on meeting technology goals after the presentation. His opinion is certainly to be valued, as he serves as the chief technology officer for the Acushnet Public Schools.
“You’ve built a wonderful technology department here over the years,” Oliver said. “We’re doing a lot of good things here. My hat’s off to you and your department.”
Committee member Dr. Carol Karafotis was also impressed with “all this progress” during the past year. “I like the way you acknowledge all the people who work for you. It speaks volumes about the kind of person you are,” she told Gallishaw.
Committeeman John Nunes described the department’s efforts as “fantastic” in all areas, and said it was made possible by the town’s commitment to funding tech needs every year. “We thank the town voters, and all the town meeting members who have shown their support for our technology needs,” Nunes said.
“It’s good to see what we’re getting” each year from the town-side budget to support technology upgrades in the schools, agreed School Committee Chair Dr. Shannon Jenkins. “And it’s great to see this (positive) report."
In other business at the June 26 meeting, the school committee heard another positive report, presented by SEPAC (Special Education Parents Advisory Committee) Chair Marianne Santos, on the committee’s activities during the past school year.
The fourth annual SEPAC resource fair was a big success, helping to raise funds to underwrite new unified bowling teams at both the middle school and high school level. A unified music program was also added this year.
Fundraising also helped purchase “Buddy Benches” for installation at all schools, where lonely students can find supportive friends with whom they could talk to or play. The organization also held a number of family fun nights where youngsters can play while parents network or attend informational sessions, and a recognition night for staffers and students, Santos said.
New school board member Kathleen Amaral was co-chair of SEPAC for many years, and noted the group has “a wonderful team” of volunteers on board, and contributes “lots of great collaboration with the staff” in all the schools.
Karafotis praised the local SEPAC as “the most energetic” advisory group she has encountered in her educational career, and credited the group with supporting “the great inclusionary efforts” being made in Dartmouth’s schools.
“The SEPAC does a wonderful job. It’s really great to see the level of collaboration” between the committee and school staffers to benefit the children needing special services, Jenkins said.