School board to mull $70K rise in tech budget

Edgemont Schools technology director Paul Garofano presented his technology budget proposal for the 2019-20 fiscal year at the board of education meeting Jan. 22, a proposal highlighted by a $70,000 increase in expenditures.

According to Garofano, the total tech budget will rise from $936,000 in 2018-19 to a little more than $1 million in 2019-20.

A large portion, or 53 percent, of the $1 million would pay for tech services provided by the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center. Among the services LHRIC provides are field support, which includes the IT staff who work daily within district buildings, as well as internet access, software and hardware maintenance.

The balance of the tech budget would cover hardware which accounts for 27 percent of the proposed expenditures, software for 10 percent and Google Chromebooks accounting for 9 percent.

Garofano also recounted the big-ticket tech items for next year’s budget. One of the most important expenditures will be switch replacements and upgrades. Network switches allow multiple devices, such as laptops, cellphones, printers, servers and other hardware, to communicate with each other. An effective switch allows each of these devices to send and receive information, such as emails or documents.

According to Garofano, the district has approximately nine switches that will be at “end of life this year.”

Replacement is necessary, he said, because “If something is end of life and you go past that … and then something happens, it could be very problematic,” said Garofano.

He explained most network switches last approximately five to 10 years. It will cost approximately $125,000 to replace the switches, an expense Garofano said the district would finance through the technology budget and a program called E-Rate.

E-Rate is a funding program administered through the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, which financially helps school districts provide internet access (or the hardware necessary for internet access) to its students.

According to Garofano, E-Rate will finance approximately 60 percent of the $125,000 the district could spend on replacing the switches. He said the funding from E-Rate goes back into the district’s capital budget.

Another major expenditure will be 38 new Promethean Panels. These panels will replace the old Smart Boards that are quickly becoming dated. Installing new Promethean Panels will cost the district $131,000. However, unlike the switches, Garofano proposed the district pay for these items through an installment purchase agreement, or IPA, with LHRIC.

In fact, the IPA would also include 200 new Chromebooks for fifth-grade students at a cost of $48,000, 15 new wireless access points for Greenville Elementary School students for $12,000, and 38 new Chromeboxes (the desktop version of a Chromebook) for grades K through 12 for $9,000.

The total IPA, with interest, would cost $218,912, which the district would pay in four installments of $54,728 each from 2019-20 to 2022-23.

Garofano is also proposing the purchase of new Chromebook towers — or charging stations for the Chromebooks — and intermediate distribution frame (IDF) cabling.

The new towers will cost $40,000 and the new IDF cabling will cost approximately $25,000. Both, per Garofano’s proposal, will be funded through the $1 million tech budget.

Garofano also explained how the district is using the technology.

He said Edgemont School District works to be fluent in the SAMR — Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition — model.

Substitution is when you simply use technology to do something you could have done without technology and there is no enhancement to the process.

Augmentation is when you use technology to do something you could have done without technology but there is functional improvement in the process.

Modification is when you use technology to significantly change the original task.

Redefinition is when you create a whole new task with technology, something that was previously inconceivable had you not used technology.

Garofano said the district, with the help of Instructional Technology Specialist Andrea Nash, is focusing on Modification and Redefinition. For example, in fifth- and sixth-grade math classes, students used to solve problems from traditional workbooks. Now, said Garofano, their work has been modified to include computational thinking and coding through robotics and coding lessons.

Additionally, in fifth-grade ELA/science classes, students used to complete traditional reading response projects about social issues.

Now, they create and publish podcasts about social issues using multimedia tools in the classroom.

Garofano also highlighted the growth of the districts 1:1 program, Edgemont Schools’ push to provide a Chromebook laptop for as many students as possible for in-class use. The 1:1 program, with the addition of the 200 new fifth-grade Chromebooks, will now be available in grades 4 through 9.

Board of education vice president Alec Clarke acknowledged he was enthusiastic about the ways in which the district is growing its use of technology.

However, he asked how the district is balancing an effective use of technology and making sure students are not spending too much time in front of a computer screen.

Garofano reminded the board about the district’s time spent in the fall with digital health specialist Janell Burley Hofmann. Hofmann taught students and teachers ways to improve the relationship between their health — both mental and physical — and their daily devices.

Garofano added it is not just on the school but the whole community to help make sure students are practicing proper digital health.

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