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From Obsolete to Up to Date
When Peter Martin, director of technology for Maynard (MA) Public Schools, came to
the district in 2010, the infrastructure was woefully out of date: network switches were nearly a decade old, access points barely worked, and coverage was barely adequate. “Wireless coverage existed, but it wasn’t reliable or strong,” says Martin. Desktop computers were around, but they hadn’t been refreshed and there were no plans to do so. Servers—mostly donated—ran various versions of Linux and Windows.
Martin’s first step was to bring in VMWare. He and Jack Colombo, the network administrator, gathered equipment from closets all over the district and centralized it at the middle school while they virtualized it.
In With the New
When the new high school opened in 2014 with top-of-the-line technology, it became even more apparent that the elementary and middle schools needed infrastructure
upgrades as well as new devices. Martin and special project coordinator Charles Gobron created a proposal to ask the town for the funding to make the necessary updates.
“The town approved funding for $120,000, as long as we could get the rest we needed from another source,” says Gobron. “Unfortunately, we lost out on an ESE grant for $80,000.”
Around that time, Martin and Gobron attended MassCUE, New England’s premier edtech conference, and went to a session that was co-presented by ESE and TECedge, ESE’s E-rate expert. They learned about
E-rate 2.0, the federal program that helps school districts obtain affordable broadband and infrastructure upgrades. Because of
E-rate’s reputation as being difficult to apply for, the district was hesitant to get involved.
“I knew it would take me many months and lots of aggravation to handle the application, and I didn’t have the time or the bandwidth,” says Martin.
The Right Choice
From preparing the bid specifications to soliciting the proper number of vendors to reviewing their quotes and filling out all of the forms, TECedge managed the whole process, says Martin. “Another great thing was that TECedge has a lot of technical expertise. Stephen Kelley came here and we walked the schools together and talked about what we wanted to do. He even
had suggestions. If you have a technical background, but particularly for schools that don’t, it makes sense to work with people like Stephen.”
Today, every building has plenty of devices for teachers and students to share. Eighth and ninth grades are 1:1 with Chromebooks and iPads, and the 10th grade will get them next year. By 2019, grades 8 through 12 will be 1:1. Because the Chromebook feedback has been so positive, Martin is buying Chromebook carts for the other schools.
Teachers are taking advantage of the upgraded wireless, too. “Having technology is a huge extension to what we do,” says Nance Messina, a third-grade teacher. “In writing workshop, we use our Chromebooks to publish our poetry, personal narratives, and essays. In science we created a video using facts about a country in the southern hemisphere. We made pamphlets about
the biomes where those animals live and are looking up weather in the southern hemisphere and comparing and contrasting it with the weather in Maynard. The possibilities are endless for projects.”
Robert J. Gerardi, Jr., Maynard’s superintendent, agrees that working with
TECedge was a smart decision. “Our initial conversations with TECedge showed they’d be hugely beneficial to our district and they were. They helped us bring in a significant
“It is great to have the infrastructure in place so that we have the freedom to do whatever else we want in our district.”
—Peter Martin, Director of Technology
amount of funding, but they didn’t stop there. TECedge is continuing to help us access funding through E-rate. It is nice to access federal money as another revenue source and not have to burden the town as much.”
A Bright Future
Now that the groundwork has been laid, Maynard Public Schools will continue upgrading devices and helping teachers learn how to infuse technology into their lessons. Already, the elementary school has begun offering authentic STEM experiences with curriculum from Project Lead the
Way. Teachers have told Martin they want Chromebook carts, and he’s excited to get started.
No matter what else, the district will do its best to keep up with technology so that it doesn’t fall behind again. As Gobron says, “The technology our kindergarten students use today is not what they’ll be using when they are high school seniors, but—rather than a one-time grant—we can receive annual funding,” says Gobron. “TECedge knew exactly what we needed and they far exceeded our expectations.”