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Technology Audit Report Finds Glaring Inadequacies

The School Committee heard a disturbing report at their meeting on Feb. 13 when consultants outlined the current state of technology within the district. A Technology Audit Report prepared from teacher interviews and site visits to the district noted major inadequacies ranging from leadership planning at the top to woefully inadequate computer networks to outdated equipment in the schools to the futile efforts to coordinate schools and teachers in support of curriculum and learning. The recommendations of consultants were lengthy and will require significant investment of time and funds to make technology an effective tool in support of teaching.

The consultants, Patricia Roberts of PR Consulting, Educational Technology and formerly of the Duxbury School System and Robert Cornacchioli of DERO Technical Services and formerly of the Shrewsbury School System, looked at four major components of technology in a school district: Leadership, Infrastructure, Teaching and Learning, and Staffing. The two gathered information during a two-day visit to Groton-Dunstable on January 7 and January 10. They conducted interviews with teachers, reviewed the district's website and gathered data on the district's capabilities with its network and computers in the schools.

For each major component, the consultants reported their findings and then made recommendations based on those findings. The major recommendations to come out of the report include hiring a full-time Technology Director who would take responsibility for leadership of technology in the district, undertake a significant upgrade to the district's network to accommodate ease of access to the internet and email traffic of teachers and students, update and increase inventory of computers in schools, and create a clear vision for technology for the district that can be adopted by teachers through staff development.

The Technology Audit Report noted that of 10 school districts and communities similar to Groton and Dunstable, Groton-Dunstable was the only school district without a Technology Director. Among those communities and school districts were Norwell, Mendon-Upton, Ipswich, Lynnfield, North Reading and Duxbury. The Technology Director would take responsibility for establishing a vision for technology in the district and planning goals for the use of technology in teaching. Roberts noted that 54 percent of teachers were unaware of a vision for technology in the District. The proposed 2014 budget for the School District provides for the hiring of a new Technology Director.

With regard to infrastructure, the Audit Report pointed to a major hindrance in the use of technology in the district: inadequate bandwidth at the schools which made it difficult for teachers to access the Internet and use email. The report listed the high school with a bandwidth of 35 Mbit/s and a bandwidth of 35 Mbit/s shared by three schools: Middle School North, Middle School South and Florence Roche Elementary). The report listed the bandwidth at Swallow Union School at 25 Mbit/s. The State Educational Technology Directors Association recommends that schools have a bandwidth of 100 Mbit/s per 1000 users. And, that standard is scheduled to increase to 1 Gbit/s per 1000 users in 2017. The consultants strongly recommended that the district conduct a comprehensive assessment of its network that would take into consideration the consolidation of servers, increase in storage files and an increase in the introduction of additional devices including wireless such as iPads and laptops.

School Committee members thanked the consultants for their report. Some members were struck by the findings and recommendations of the report. Member John Giger said the report struck him as a challenge and an enormous opportunity for the school district. Interim Superintendent Anthony Bent stated, "There are levels of opportunity to move forward."

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