By Ryan Pike and Griffin Johnson
Managing Editor for Writing and Reporting and Editor-in-chief
Jamesville-DeWitt High School is by far one of the best school districts in the country, according to Newsweek’s 2013 list of the top 2,000 high schools in the country. However, despite how good J-DHS may be overall, it still has some weaknesses. One such issue is technology. “I wouldn’t say that we’re years ahead of others schools or years behind other schools,” said Phil Luckette, district technology coordinator; “We’re in the middle of the pack.”
Despite the increasing necessity of technology in the modern academic world, J-D only upped its “Computer Assisted Instruction” budget by a paltry $2,374 from the 2012-13 year to 2013-14. That means that, of the $1,789,481 the budget increased, just .1 percent was used to bulk up the increasingly essential technology budget. “It’s been a real challenge just to stay treading water with technology,” said J-DHS Principal Paul Gasparini; “We have some real work to do to try to overcome a lot of obsolete machines.”
As a result of this small increase in technology funding, J-D is beginning to see some issues. Teachers universally appreciate the technology they’ve been afforded, but some wish for more training, more computers and updated resources.
Additionally, J-DHS runs at least eight different operating systems between various versions of Windows, Windows XP and Mac OS. “Students and teachers are continually running into compatibility issues,” said Mr. Luckette. Mr. Gasparini also pointed out that older technology does not allow for the use of newer software used in the “21st century learning environment,” such as Prezi.
The school is not unaware of these issues. “With the budgets the way they’ve been, we’ve had a hard time overcoming obsolescence,” Mr. Gasparini admitted. An internal “State of High School Instructional Technology Equipment” notes that circuit boards are beginning to fall off of six computers and a handful, like the Macs in the Mac Lab, have reached their ceiling in terms of operating system software upgrades, making it impossible for them to be guaranteed as compatible with all the other models in the building.
The most grossly antiquated pieces of technology at J-DHS lie in the Green Hall’s PC Lab, which contains 24 10-year-old PCs. “We always have to make old work with new,” remarked District Network Administrator Kelly Nye; “It would be great if everything was all the same, but it’s not going to happen.” The PC Lab is likely on its way out, with the administration planning to replace the computers with Mac Minis in the near future.
That makes the oldest computers now just eight years old. Mr. Luckette said that, in an ideal world, the technology at J-DHS wouldn’t be kept past five years. However, in 2014-15, nine out of the 12 different groups of computers in the building will be that old. As of now, 118 out of 195 computers (60.5 percent) are older than five; next school year, that figure jumps to 165 out of 195 (84.6 percent).
While some of J-D’s technology may be a little lacking, its “logical” technology -the behind-the-scenes bits that make it all work- is top-notch. The network, which is district-wide and encapsulates the elementary schools, middle school, high school and bus garage, was replaced in summer 2013 and is now top of the line. Mrs. Nye termed it as the “most used and most current” offerings in the tech world.
There’s also a new public WiFi network that is in a sort of beta testing phase. “We haven’t published it because we’re just letting people try it,” Mr. Luckette explained; “[We’re] keeping our ear to the ground about problems or issues and just trying to tweak it as we go.” The public can access the network by joining the “JDGuest” server from any device. The goal of this endeavor is to streamline the use of personal devices for positive, educational uses.
In the future, it is imperative that J-D focus more on technology in order to stay up with the times and adequately prepare students for their futures. “It’s important for Jamesville-DeWitt to stay ahead of the curve; or at least, on top of the curve,” Mr. Gasparini said; “We have to find some creative ways to increase our technology budget. I haven’t been shy about articulating that.”
“I wish the state would fund us a little better,” Mrs. Nye admitted; “All the districts in the state are just struggling tremendously.” The J-D community will have an opportunity to articulate that themselves at the Board Meeting on March 17 at 7 pm.