BY SAMUEL GLASSER
Frustration with the delays in receiving funds for technology upgrades from the state’s 2014 Smart Schools Bond issue was evident at the Herricks Board of Education meeting last Thursday.
District Chief Information Officer Chris Connors and District Technology Integration Specialist David Pickman said in their presentation on the district’s technology initiatives that “two years have passed since our initial application was submitted,” but no plans have been approved. This means that work cannot proceed and money will not be distributed, they said.
The state initially calculated the amount that every school district would receive from the bond issue and then told the districts to submit proposals, Pickman said. It was previously reported that Herricks’s share would be $967,000.
The district submitted a proposal in the spring of 2018 to upgrade its wireless network mainly focused on the technology infrastructure at the high school. The state then changed its requirements and the district submitted a revised proposal the following summer. And that’s where the process has stopped, Pickman said. Herricks and other Long Island districts that are in the same position have heard nothing from the state since then.
“The process could be a back and forth,” he explained. A district submits a plan, might have to make changes, sends in the revisions, and once the plans are approved the district has to lay out the money first to get reimbursed.
“Our plan is now two years old so it needs to be rethought,” Connors noted. “Now we need to get updated pricing from vendors to comply with state rules regarding funding.”
He said that preliminary work mainly involving cable and switch upgrades had begun using a $100,000 grant obtained by former State Senator Elaine Phillips.
Schools Superintendent Fino Celano said the process has been “very frustrating. Even members of the Legislature are frustrated by the lack of response from the State Education Department.”
One suggestion from the board was for the district to fund the wireless upgrade on its own and then reapply for other technology projects, but that would entail starting the process from the beginning.
During the past few years, the district has seen a substantial increase in the population of mobile devices. Connors said that the district now supports more than 2,500 devices such as i-Pads and various types of personal computers, yet the existing network is long past its useful life.
Connors and Pickman also noted that in 2014 the state legislature created a new section of the education law that addressed safeguarding student data and privacy. Now, they said, five years later, the state is nearly ready to issue regulations that clarify what is expected of school districts.
As proposed, the rules would impose another set of unfunded mandates with requirements for protecting personal information, adopting a Parents Bill of Rights for Data Privacy that would also contain information about each written agreement with vendors that involve the disclosure of personal information. Districts would also have to appoint a data protection officer to oversee the implementation of the rules.
As for the district’s initiatives already underway, classroom Smartboards, first installed approximately 10 years ago, are being replaced with smart interactive 65-inch LED monitors; all devices running on the Microsoft Windows platform are being upgraded to Windows 10, and the oldest Chromebooks which are about five or six years old are being replaced with newer models.
Also during the meeting, the board honored the Herricks High School girls volleyball team which was named Co-Conference Champions.
Coach Tara Krinsky was named coach of the year by the Nassau Volleyball Coaches Association. The boys’ varsity volleyball also made it to the playoffs.