Eisenhower National Clearinghouse

Success Stories

The following article appeared in the Spring 1996 issue of ENC Update, page 10

An Ordinary District Does Extraordinary Things With Technology

Charles Hill runs a server, a computer that others can connect to and find information. The unusual thing about Hill is that he is also involved in running a school district in upstate New York. He refers to himself as the Assistant Superintendent for Everything Else, and as he describes the work he is involved in, you can believe that he is not exaggerating. In a period of two years, he has put his school district on the Internet with a site that was selected as one of ENC's Digital Dozen in October 1995. (See Developing Educational Standards, http://putwest.boces.org/Standards.html)

The Putnam Valley home page offers Internet users a repository on curriculum standards. Visit the site via Internet, and you will find links to the U.S. Department of Education, the major standards projects, essays about Standards, and ENC's Web server with the full-text and graphics of the 1989 NCTM Curriculum and Evaluation Standards document.

Return to the home page and visit the Putnam Valley schools. You can read a school newspaper, link up with the Internet pick of the week, or check out the Putnam Valley Peers Influence Peers project. After your visit, you wonder, "How is a small rural school district able to do all of this?"

According to Charles Hill, the Board of Education made a commitment two years ago to upgrade technology in the district's two K-8 schools serving 1400 students. They adopted a plan with clear-cut objectives, including Internet connections for the schools, that the community accepted. The original Internet service for which they contracted was inadequate, so when the opportunity arose, they became the service provider for their region through a State of New York Department of Education collaborative. In this way, they are able to run a server and to create a home page for their schools.

Hill emphasizes that they have adopted a different approach to technology than some school districts. They are installing and using "second generation" technology that has been tried and in fact works. They are not concerned with having the latest hardware or software, but rather with having technology that is less expensive and more reliable and that can be upgraded. Putnam Valley's wise investment policy is a selling point for the plan. In addition, the district has worked hard to keep the community informed and does many promotional activities. They held a Family Night in December, and they have items of community interest on their server along with a regular Community Night in the Lab every Thursday evening.

At this point, both schools in the district have a lab and several clusters of computers. A cluster is three to eight machines in one location. There are also computers in many classrooms, but Hill believes clusters are the ideal that the district will move towards. Not every teacher has embraced technology, but Hill says that is not a problem. When teachers are ready, the district provides training, preferably after teachers have equipment in their building and/or classroom, so they can work with the tools they will actually be using.

Putnam Valley's Web Site began as a staff development project for the teachers in the district as they reexamine their curricula. The Standards page provides an index that Hill updates every two weeks for teachers. In this way, they can locate the many Standards materials available through the Internet without repeating their search each time. The page has also become a valuable resource for teachers across the nation.

Hill says that he is most proud of the fact that Putnam Valley is an ordinary district that has done extraordinary things. He attributes this to the support from the school board, to district personnel who are extremely dedicated to the technology project, and to the practical approach they have taken to getting functional, but not flashy, equipment in place to support their effort. Hill cites the district's business manager, Paul Lee, as an example of dedication and practicality. He has often wired rooms himself, and has found an Eagle Scout Troop to come in and help wire a building as a community service project.

If you are inspired by the Putnam Valley story and want to know more, contact Charles Hill directly at:

Charles Hill
Putnam Valley Schools
171 Oscawana Lake Road
Putnam Valley, NY 10579
Phone: (914) 528-8143
E-Mail: [email protected]
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