from the Citizen's Advisory Committee on Technology and Computers
June 12, 1995
From: Citizens Advisory Committee on Technology and Computers:
Carmine Matina, David Strom, co-chairs; Harry Andersen, Mark Glass, William Dinner, Sanford L. Fleisher, B. Loerinc Helft, Ron Menzel, Naomi Mott, Pat Plominski, Mitch Schwartz
Subject: Project: PortNet Report
Date: June 12, 1995
The Citizen's Advisory Committee on Technology and Computers was established to recommend specific hardware, software, and networking infrastructure to implement the district's Technology Plan.
Our committee developed technical subcommittees to research and present findings in the following categories: classroom computers and portables, printers, local area network operating systems software and servers, wide area networking (WAN) equipment including Internet connectivity, wiring and electrical improvements, maintenance, training and support. Reports were followed by committee discussion and consensus-building. No recommendation was reached without thorough discussion among all committee members. With few exceptions, every committee member attended every meeting, held weekly beginning May 8, 1995. This cohesive committee worked diligently, using all of the professional expertise at its disposal.
The personal contacts to relevant corporations and potential business partners were invaluable. We made many phone calls to other school districts who have already gone through this process, or who are currently exploring similar issues. The interests of the students and teachers of the district were always in our minds.
With a sense of accomplishment, we present for your consideration our report, including our recommendations, our underlying assumptions, implementation schedule and a spreadsheet itemizing how the district should purchase and deploy technology. We suggest the name Project: PortNet for this activity, which includes not only the purchase of technology but the ancillary training and support required to tightly integrate technology into our children's education.
We were originally chartered by the Board to deliver a draft report at this time. However, our committee feels that our school district needs to move forward in implementing Project: PortNet as quickly as possible. Therefore, we have prepared what we feel is our final report to you, rather than a draft.
The Committee is confident that the Board will read and consider its recommendations carefully. We would be happy to answer any questions that the Board may have, and to expand on any points made. We look forward to your response.
Our committee is composed of eight parents (with a total of fourteen children attending Port schools), two school administrators, and one teacher. We represent over 150 years of cumulative information systems experience. Members were chosen by the school administration after receiving many highly qualified applications. The parents include a broad range of experienced computer professionals working in the New York area. Member profiles are included.
We have named our vision Project: PortNet. This includes not only the purchase of technology but the ancillary training and support required to tightly integrate technology into our children's education. Our goals are:
We want to impress upon the Board that a technology commitment must be ongoing. Continued funding is required for our district to become a leader in integrating technology with education. Maintenance and updates are both important components in ensuring the success of educational technology systems. Funding for these requirements will necessarily become an entry in the annual budget allocation, as are such items as buildings and grounds maintenance.
Our vision includes spending $500,000 - $600,000 per year for technology, which we feel should be funded out of current year budgets and not through acquiring any long-term debt.
We feel strongly that infrastructure take priority over purchasing computers. We will take advantage of several cooperative efforts from various vendors to provide the district with state-of-the art equipment.
Training is the top priority in Project: PortNet. Adequate staff training is expensive, both in time and capital, but failure to provide adequate training will be much more costly in the long run, considering the significant investment the district is about to make in hardware and software. Funding must be available for training on an on-going basis. Our committee was informed that training funds are available to the district on other budget lines. The board must assure that appropriate training is available, using local resources such as BOCES, local colleges, outside experts and internal personnel. In order to be effective, there must be flexible and comprehensive training for all teachers and auxiliary personnel. Thus, while we haven't budgeted for training our teachers, we haven't forgotten about this very important and essential item. Too often, training funds are the first to be cut in any budget exercise: we strongly believe that such an action would be penny-wise and pound-foolish.
Project: PortNet includes the following items:
|1995-6||2 Macs for grades 4,5||(none)||*additional computers|
|1996-7||2 Macs for grades 2,3||45 Macs||*additional computers|
|1997-8||2 Macs for grades K,1 and +1 Mac for grades 4,5||60 Macs||*Upgrade IBM lab, additional computers|
|1998-9||+2 Macs for grades K-3 and +1 Mac for grades 4,5||30 Macs||*Upgrade Mac lab, additional computers|
1. Adequate Training will be Provided. Training is the top priority. Adequate staff training is expensive, both in time and capital, but failure to provide adequate training will be much more costly in the long run, considering the significant investment we are making in hardware and software. Training is of two types: learning the mechanics of the hardware and software comes first. Then on-going training to learn the software that will be introduced into the curriculum is required.
2. Adequate Support will be Provided.
3. Do the Job Right the First Time. The committee refuses to recommend cheaper solutions in the short term when they feel those solutions would lead to larger expenditures for repair, re-installation, or maintenance at a later date. It is best to do the job right the first time.
4. Don't Double-spend. The committee acknowledged that district funds are at a premium. As currently envisioned, our recommendations require no spending on any short-term technology that is not part of our long-term plan.
5. Give Each Elementary School Equal Network Access. Our plan takes a district-wide approach. Each school will have equal access to the many resources to which it will be connected.
6. Computers Belong in the Elementary Classroom. Students need computers to be available whenever they want to test an idea, research a topic that comes up for discussion, or expand their learning. Computers strengthen all the skills they are acquiring, and support critical thinking and decision-making. They belong in the classroom.
7. Computers Without Connectivity are of Limited Utility. Computers connected to each other allow students to share information, explore resources beyond their classroom, communicate with others in different classes and schools, and expand their understanding of the world. Computing today demands connectivity.
8. Maximize the Number of Computers in Each Class, Given Other Constraints. Once the infrastructure to support the technology is in place, all of the remaining funds are put towards the purchase of computers. As funds become available in the future, we expect this philosophy to continue.
9. Continue Oversight of Project: PortNet. Our committee will continue its role as an independent oversight reviewer of Project: PortNet.
1. Classroom Computers - Elementary Schools. Apple Macintoshes or compatibles should be used as the principle elementary classroom computer. The district should aim for a $2,000 price point and purchase whatever equipment is available at this price point. Project: PortNet calls for at least two computers to be placed in as many classrooms as possible in each year of the program. Our recommendation is for putting two computers in each of two grades in 1995-6, 1996-7, and 1997-8, an additional computer in two grades in 1997-8, and bringing every classroom up to four computers in 1998-9. The district should begin purchasing computers now and place them in the schools as early as possible in the upcoming school year.
Why hurry? We believe that there exists a critical mass of interest, skills, and excitement at the present time that the board should capitalize on, in both senses of the word. Waiting serves no purpose: everyone agrees that the Port schools are far behind the technological curve.
Each computer should contain a Power PC processor and at least eight megabytes of memory along with its own CD ROM drive. This is the minimum configuration for running the widest variety of educational and standard office applications.
The Macintosh has several advantages over the Intel PC running Windows: ease-of-use, preference and familiarity of our teachers, overall life-cycle cost (including training, computer virus detection, support and ease of networking and Internet configuration), variety of software available at the elementary level, and also the minor differential (vs. Intel PC) in initial cost. Windows '95 is not yet tested or proven.
2. Middle School Computers. Apple Macintoshes or compatibles should be used as the principle middle school computer. The district should aim for the same $2,000 price point. Project: PortNet calls for 45 computers to be purchased in 1996-7, 60 in 1997-8, and 30 in 1998-9. All computers will be networked together using wireless Altair technology mentioned below in item #8.
3. High School Computers. A mixture of Apple Macintoshes and IBM PCs or their compatibles should be used in various labs at Schreiber. Both should be purchased at the $2,000 price point. Project: PortNet calls for continuing purchases of this equipment so that our high school remains technologically current and has adequate equipment to support a wide variety of academic computing programs.
4. Classroom software. A separate committee will make its recommendations to the board on particular elementary classroom software. We have seen a preliminary draft of their report and concur with their overall direction. Some standard office applications will come bundled with the computer (spreadsheets, anti-virus, word processing, scheduling, and so forth).
5. Printers and other peripherals. Each classroom in the elementary schools will have its own Ethernet-connected laser printer. Project: PortNet calls for additional peripherals such as a shared color printer in each school library, as well as the purchase of digital cameras and scanners to support the exciting world of multimedia applications.
6. Local area network equipment. To realize Project: PortNet, each and every computer must be connected to a local area Ethernet network. Standalone computers, that is, computers that are disconnected from the network, have little or no place in our schools. We feel this is important not only for instructional purposes but to build a coherent community among our students, faculty, and staff.
One server (running Microsoft Windows/NT Advanced Server network operating system or NOS) should be installed in each school. This server should contain at least 64 megabytes of memory and four gigabytes of disk storage. We also recommend SoftArc's First Class electronic mail and discussion group software as the district-wide electronic mail system.
Our recommendation is for 10Base-T Ethernet network connections at the desktop. This is based on using widely understood current technology, even though faster (100Base-T) networks are just coming to market this year. Most of the Macintoshes or compatibles under consideration come with built-in 10 megabit Ethernet connections. Should the district purchase machines that require a separate network add-in card, we recommend buying a dual-purpose 10/100 megabit product that can be used both in existing 10Base-T networks as well as under future, faster, 100Base-T conditions.
7. Wide area network (WAN) equipment. Each school's network will in turn be connected to Schreiber via Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) telephone lines. In addition, Schreiber will then be connected to the Internet, meaning that every classroom in the district ultimately will be connected to each other and have access to the Internet. Thus, a student in one third-grade class at Daly can correspond with a student in another third-grade class at Manorhaven or another across the world. Our supplemental report describes this technology in detail.
8. Wiring and electrical improvements. Project: PortNet will require a substantial improvement in electrical capacity in each elementary school, although the work can be spread over several years as new computers are purchased. We recommend that one elementary school be completely wired in 1995 (preferably this summer) with the appropriate electrical power and data ports needed to support six network connections per classroom. In addition, we recommend that the other elementary schools install sufficient electrical capacity this summer to support the initial computer purchase.
The remaining elementary schools, as well as the Middle School, will make use of Motorola Altair wireless networking equipment until they can be completely wired in subsequent years. As wireless equipment is replaced by wired connections, this equipment should move to the Middle School where it will be used as the permanent infrastructure. Motorola has agreed to give the district a very substantial discount for this equipment.
9. Maintenance and furniture. We will purchase tables for each computer and printer, and should allocate needed funds for maintaining all equipment purchased.
10. Support and training. We consider training an essential and integral part of the PortNet environment. We recommend that the district get started on training immediately this summer and offer both in-service courses as well as courses during the school day (release time) for teachers. Training should be on-going and incremental throughout the school year. Project: PortNet assumes the funds for these activities to come from other budget line items and so we have not included them in our calculations.
We recommend purchasing five laptops a year. Portable computers purchased by the district could be used on a needs basis by individuals or groups of teachers working on new curriculum ideas. They could be used to evaluate software for purchase, and to train new users wherever needed.
In terms of support resources for implementing Project: PortNet, we make recommendations in three separate areas: First is for curriculum support. The task of weaving technology into the fabric of the school is a challenge. Other public and private schools that we visited have at least a full-time person working on curriculum-related issues with computer populations much less than ours. The committee understands that the costs of adding additional personnel to the district is expensive, yet we strongly recommend that a full-time curriculum specialist be added as soon as possible and that the district should plan on adding a second curriculum person in the following year. To broaden the impact of the specialist he/she should work closely with the library/media specialists in each of the elementary schools.
Second is the area of technical support. The first year of the technology program will increase the current system by 68 personal computers and by at least six servers. An additional 10 to 20 PCs will be added to the district from other grants and programs. The second year will see an increase of 68 personal computers for the elementary schools and 45 PCs for the middle school. In order to sufficiently maintain and service the current computers, the new computers, the computer network, the Internet connections and the administrative staff system we recommend that two additional technical staff be hired. This will bring the total technical support staff to three, to be composed of one senior member and the two junior members. One person should be added now and the second person should be added as the district begins to get ready for the following year's shipment. The support team should also encourage participation by students for technical support of the hardware, software and the network.
Finally is the area of overall management. The tasks of overseeing and managing all aspects of technology within the school district are significant. We recommend creating a new position for an overall technology administrator, hiring someone with previous computer and curriculum experience. This individual should be responsible for overseeing and aiding the technology curriculum specialist and for directing and guiding the technical support team.
11. Acceptable Use Policy. Users of computer systems need a set of rules to guide them in proper, ethical use of the technology. Many school districts have adopted acceptable use policies and standards for students, teachers, and staff to follow. We believe that policies need to be established from the beginning, so that the user community has a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities. Some members of this committee have expressed an interest in helping the district establish such guidelines for use of the technology they are recommending.
Our view is that this policy should be established by a group of teachers, parents, and school administrators. Policies enable teachers to set limits on what can be accessed on the Internet and can reassure parents that their children are acquiring appropriate knowledge for their grade level.
The Committee looked at Project: PortNet as a whole, with its costs spread over the first four years, and analyzed the financial and technological requirements for the initial implementation. We then maximized the immediate benefit that could be derived from the $500,000 allocated for the first year. The following spreadsheet provides a year-by-year spending overview. The subsequent table is our implementation schedule. The column labeled "ongoing cost/year" describes the funds needed to support and continue Project: PortNet beyond the 1998-9 school year.
K-5 Classroom Computers
Middle School Computers
Other Budget Lines
Support Technicians (2)
Curriculum Specialists (2)
Year 1: 1995-6
2 computers, 1 laser printer, tables per class, grades 4 and 5
1 scanner, 1 digital camera per school
1 file server, software per school
1 file server (spare)
completely wire one bldg. and one bldg. hub in one school
wireless technology/classroom hubs for 3 schools
1 color printer, table for library
Additional funds outside the scope of this committee
Curriculum software, Electronic mail
Wide Area Network (WAN) link from each school to Schreiber
WAN from Schreiber to Internet
Electrical service to support first year requirements
2 computers, 1 laser printer, tables per class, grades 2 and 3
1 color printer per library
1 mail server per school
completely wire 2 bldgs., 2 bldg. hubs
(1 elementary school still on wireless technology)
45 computers, tables
5 laser printers, tables
1 scanner, 1 digital camera for Middle School
1 color printer for library
1 file server & software
1 mail server
move existing wireless technology to Middle School
Additional funds outside the scope of this committee
All remaining electrical service upgrades
WAN recurring costs
2 computers, 1 laser printer, tables per class, grades K and 1
1 additional computer, tables per class, grades 4 and 5
completely wire one bldg. and one bldg. hub in one elementary school
60 computers, 6 laser printers, tables
IBM lab upgrade in the High School
move existing wireless technology where needed (e.g., Middle or High School)
WAN recurring costs
2 additional computers, tables per class, grades K to 3
1 additional computer, tables per class, grades 4 and 5
30 computers, 3 laser printers, tables
Mac lab upgrade
WAN recurring costs
2. Provide Subsequent Year Funding. We recommend that the district set aside $500,000 - $600,000 annually for technology purchases for the immediate future. We do NOT recommend the use of bonds or other financial instruments for the purchase of technology because of the obsolescence of equipment within three years.
3. Use existing and future technology to generate revenue. Revenue can be generated by offering courses, through Continuing Education for example, using the latest technology we have available. This revenue can be used to buy additional equipment or supplies.
4. Use One District-Wide Network Operating System (NOS). It would be useful and could certainly save the district money in the long run, by converting the current administration NetWare installations to NT. This would bring uniformity and allow the management of only one NOS across all aspects of the district.
5. Extend PortNet. Once the initial PortNet is established, we recommend that additional connections be put in place to the Port Washington Library, to Landmark at Main Street Community Center, and to other locations in our community to increase public access.
6. Establish Accountability. The District would benefit from an outside, independent review of the impact of the acquired technology on established outcomes. It might be mutually beneficial to have a graduate student from a local college conduct such a study for a Masters Thesis or Ph.D. dissertation. Another possibility is a curriculum specialist from a district where technology has become an established component in the educational climate.
7. Promote a Culture Supportive of Technology. By weaving technology into the fabric of the educational culture, administration, teachers, staff and students alike will benefit from its use. This profound shift in culture and philosophy takes time, and the sooner begun, the better. The Board can facilitate the transition by making appropriate hiring and training policy decisions.
8. Provide Loans to Teachers for Computers. Teachers have a greater opportunity to experiment with technology and curriculum innovations if they can work with them outside of the classroom. We recommend that the district look at the Manhasset model, where teachers receive interest free loans up to $3,000 for the purchase of a computer system. The loan would be re-paid within five years. Up to $2,000 of the loan would be forgiven by the district when a staff member successfully achieves a prescribed level of technical mastery and instructional outcomes.
David Strom, committee co-chair, is the president of David Strom, Inc., a Port Washington-based consulting firm dedicated to improving the quality of networked products. Mr. Strom is one of the leading experts on network technologies. He writes a weekly column called "On Site" for Infoworld and a variety of practical articles for Forbes. In 1990, he created Network Computing magazine and was the magazine's first editor-in-chief. He established the magazine's six networked laboratories and designed a network-based publishing and production system. Mr. Strom previously held positions at PC Week, the US Department of Agriculture's Information Center, the Office of Technology Assessment of the US. Congress, the Conservation Foundation, and private consulting firms. Mr. Strom has a Masters of Science, Operations Research degree from Stanford University, and a BS from Union College. He is married and has one daughter in Daly kindergarten.
Harry Andersen is a lifelong resident of Port, celebrating his 25th year as a classroom teacher. He is a graduate of Queens College and C.W. Post College, along with Sands Point, Sousa and Schreiber. He is also founder of SAFE (Student Activists For the Environment) and is the current advisor to Schreiber's Amnesty International chapter and Model Congress Club. Mr. Andersen is literate in both Mac and PC platforms, and helped bring America On-line to Schreiber library and is co-chair of the district's Technology Committee and a member of the district's K-12 Social Studies Curriculum Review Committee. He is married and has four children: Kristen, Tyghe, Chad and Ryon.
Mark Glass is the computer coordinator for Port Washington School District since 1992. He has over twelve years of computer experience including teaching, help desk support, and building systems and networks.
William Dinner is a computer professional with almost twenty years of diversified financial computer experience. He is currently a Vice President and system architect at Lehman Brothers, responsible for designing the architecture for Lehman's world wide Data Warehouse Projects. Mr. Dinner has been a leader in design and implementation of state-of-the-art client-server computing models. This includes Lehman's Equity Research World Wide Morning Note creation and distribution system and Bankers Trust's BT-World, a workstation used throughout the US for obtaining and sending Master Trust and Global Custody information. In previous jobs, Mr. Dinner has been responsible for designing and installing local and world wide telecommunications networks and overseeing the creation of End User Information Centers. Mr. Dinner received his undergraduate degree from The University of Michigan and was awarded a Masters of Science in Mathematics from the University of New Hampshire. A Port Washington resident for 16 years, William has two children in the Port Washington schools. Isaac, 15, at Schreiber High and Jesse, 13, is finishing the seventh grade at Weber Junior High.
Sanford L. Fleisher manages a computer lab for graduate students and doctoral faculty at the City University of New York Graduate School and University Center. Mr. Fleisher assists faculty to use technology in their curriculum and solicit technology grants. Mr. Fleisher supervises a staff of Ph.D. students, coordinates educational discounts and software licenses at his campus and is active in providing adaptive computing equipment to students with disabilities. Mr. Fleisher also lectures on a variety of computer topics, including computer viruses, Internet services and World Wide Web electronic authoring in HTML. Mr. Fleisher has over 20 years of industrial engineering, computer programming, systems analysis and management experience. Mr. Fleisher has a MBA from Wharton, a MSE in Computer Science from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech. He is married, has a son in the first grade at Guggenheim School, has a daughter in nursery school, and sails a catamaran in Manhasset Bay.
B. Loerinc Helft is an associate professor of computer information systems at Baruch College, School of Business, City University of New York. Dr. Helft has been introducing technology to students and professionals for 15 years. She has also taught a wide range of information systems subjects at the bachelors and masters level, including business applications programming, expert systems, emerging trends, and computers, ethics and the law. She has been extensively involved in curriculum development, and designed information systems to support coursework. Her area of specialization is computer ethics - the ethical use and development of information systems. B. Loerinc Helft is the recipient of several awards, including the Baruch Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Teaching. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from City College. Her Masters and Doctorate in computer science are from the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences of New York University. She is married and has one daughter in the first grade at Guggenheim School, and two grown stepchildren, ages 23 and 25.
Ron Menzel owns a consulting company that is developing several client-server applications for the City and State of New York. He has 22 years of systems analysis, design and implementation experience in positions ranging from systems programmer to Vice President of MIS. His responsibilities included the development of real-time, transaction processing and communication software for both the private and public sectors based on mainframe, mini and PC systems networked in various LAN and WAN configurations. He directed the analysis, selection and purchase of hardware and software for numerous projects for major corporations including Citibank, Merrill Lynch, ITT, General Instrument and Loral. He received his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton and continued his graduate studies in Computer Science there. He has a special interest in the use of computers for education including available technology for Special-Ed. His third grade son at Guggenheim and his tenth grade son at Schreiber High School do most of their homework on PCs and use the Internet for research.
Naomi Mott has held positions for the past 14 years in the computer industry as a systems analyst, programmer analyst and technical account executive. She has had responsibility for the implementation and configuration of various platforms including IBM System 38, IBM System 36, IBM AS/400 and client/server environments such as Novell NetWare. She has given numerous seminars to the real estate industry with respect to computerization of all accounting and back office operations. In addition, she and her husband have a consulting business of their own specializing in installation of client/server environments for small businesses utilizing real estate software, accounting software and administrative software. Mrs. Mott has three children currently in the 6th, 3rd and 2nd grades at Guggenheim School.
Pat Plominski is currently an availability services manager with IBM. She has been with the firm for 18 years. A resident of Port Washington for 38 years, she attended Merriman, Main Street, Weber and Schreiber schools. Mrs. Plominski earned a BA in English Education. She has three children; Kevin (11), Laura (8), and Matthew (6), all of whom will be attending Sousa School in the fall.
Mitch Schwartz has been a computer professional in various capacities since 1980. He owns a consulting company, Millenium Software, that specializes in software for large systems. Recently, his work has involved the installation and management of personal computers and networks, and their integration into the large systems environment. He is a graduate of Cornell University. Mr. Schwartz has experience in many aspects of data communications and networking, and is familiar with the technologies and products that are implemented in schools. He has been involved with school-related activities since his arrival in Port Washington in 1983, including the Parent Resource Center. He is married and has two children, one 25 years old, and a 9 year old fourth grader at Daly.