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Norwalk school board likely to gut plan to purchase new computers

Children use the Brookside Elementary School computer lab in this file photo.
Children use the Brookside Elementary School computer lab in this file photo.

NORWALK, Conn. – There will fewer new computers for Norwalk school children than planned next year if Norwalk’s Board of Education agrees with a decision made by its Finance Committee on Wednesday night.

Expecting to receive less money than he requested in the 2013-2014 capital budget, interim schools Superintendent Tony Daddona suggested cutting the number of new computers that had been planned for purchase. The money would instead be used to begin to install WiFi at the schools, a necessity for the transition to Common Core state standards. The three BOE Finance Committee members present — Mike Barbis, Steven Colarossi and Jack Chiarmonte — voted unanimously to send that idea to the entire board.

The board requested $2.7 million in the capital budget for Fiscal Year 2014, but was only granted $2.1 million. So, instead of buying 712 new computers – with this year’s capital budget – Daddona and Chief Operating Officer Elio Longo recommended buying 203 computers. They also plan to take $178,202 in leftover capital funding from 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 to help make up the difference between what they asked for and what they’re getting.

Longo said that still doesn’t provide enough money — $770,000 — to install WiFi, but he’s confident he can find the additional $122,000 needed from a federal E-Rate grant.

Colarossi questioned installing WiFi if the students don’t have the equipment to use it, but Dadonna said there is a state deadline for the installation as part of the Common Core transition.

There are 4,000 computers for district children, with an average shelf life of five years, Daddona said.

“We will try our best to get a year of extra life out of our existing computers,” he said.

If the BOE approves that idea, it will then go back to city for final approval.

When it came to keeping students safe, the city sent mixed signals with its capital budget funding. Daddona said the city added $100,000 to the FY14 capital budget “at the last minute” to enhance school security. But Colarossi asked about other safety issues, such as the requests to replace flammable theater curtains, as well as paving and gym equipment, which were denied earlier in the process. Colarossi wanted to know if any explanation had been given.

“Did they give us a hint?” he asked. “Did they at least let us buy a vowel so we could guess?”

The answer was no.

Colarossi turned to Chiarmonte and had a suggestion for the paving. He said, “Maybe we could buy some hot patch?”

Committee member Rosa Murray was not present for the meeting.

Comments

11 responses to “Norwalk school board likely to gut plan to purchase new computers”

  1. Ergo

    We have several large name business that are in Norwalk. It would be nice if they could get together and work something out to help donate a portion of the computers. Computers are a necessity for our students and not having updated computers or computer labs is only further hurting our students.

    I really hate to see our students and future citizens pay for budget shortfalls yet again.

  2. oldtimer

    “flammable theater curtains” in a school building ? Isn’t that a very serious fire code violation ? Serious enough the fire marshall is required to order immediate removal ?

  3. Bryan Meek

    4,000 computers for 10,000 students? I agree with the part about having to replace 1/5th every year, but do kids read books anymore? The high school requirements are only for 1/2 a credit in technology. Just curious how we are using these computers and if we shouldn’t be focusing more instead on math, reading, writing.

  4. Bryan Meek

    $770,000 won’t cut it for WIFI? That’s good work if you can get it. Almost $40,000 per building? Who will get this contract? And how does this improve math scores?

  5. Joe Espo

    Chances are that the BOE would have never gotten past Tom Hamilton, the Planning Commission, the Mayor and the BET with a capital budget request for a WiFi build-out because, as Colarossi points out, they don’t have the equipment yet. And the intended equipment? A few thousand iPADS that Doddona says are required by the Common Core statndards for TAKING TESTS! So the iPads are a $350 substitute for a pencil and a piece of paper. And with so many iPADS, who needs desktops? So the original request for 712 new computers was a sham because with iPADS, they can get away with a few hundred fewer desktops. Now instead of having to pass muster with the four other review entities, this little bit of end-run sandbagging let’s the BOE deal with just one entity, the Council. And of course, it being an election year, councilmembers will be falling all over themselves willing give away our money.

  6. Steve Colarossi

    The State Department of Education is mandating that, in the near future, testing be done on-line for state mastery tests. That’s why there is a requirement that we purchase more computers (whether it’s desktops or Ipads) and create wireless networks in all of the schools. And yes, it is yet another unfunded state mandate.
    The cost of the wireless networks has been explained as being attributable to the difficulty of many of the wiring runs. We have a number of old school buildings, and newer buildings like Norwalk High School which present design challenges. The layouts of our schools, as has been explained, requires multiple routers being installed– more than one would expect looking at the schools on a purely square footage basis.
    As for the stage curtains, I had recalled that former BoE Chairman Glenn Iannacone was concerned that stage curtains needed to be replaced in many schools to promote fire safety. I had been asking if those curtains had been replaced and brought up the concern that had been raised initially when that line item in the capital budget had been proposed.

  7. Bryan Meek

    So it would seem we have to have dedicated machines to administer tests. All n thousand students need to take the test simultaneously rather than in scheduled shifts and the test can only be done from a wireless connection.
    What is the consequence of failed compliance? Are fines cheaper?
    Why can’t the test be available off line ( a salient feature in most cheap software packages ) and have the results submitted in batch from a central processor?

    Why would the school system build up its own network backbone of equipment and hardware that becomes obsolete every two to four years? Why not leverage some third party (Verizon, AT&T, Cablevision) for the service at a controllable cost?
    I don’t disagree with having the best tools available for our children and educators, but when are we going to realize that our core competency should be education delivery and not building management?

  8. Tim T

    Steve Colarossi
    YOU SAY
    As for the stage curtains, I had recalled that former BoE Chairman Glenn Iannacone was concerned that stage curtains needed to be replaced in many schools to promote fire safety. I had been asking if those curtains had been replaced and brought up the concern that had been raised initially when that line item in the capital budget had been proposed.
    MY QUESTION IS WHY IS THIS FIRE HAZARD NOT PRIORITY NUMBER 1

  9. David

    If there’s a more short sighted decision by the city of Norwalk, I’ve yet to hear of it.

    During the recent economic depression, STEM jobs were the ones that held their value the best. Unemployment rate of IT professionals is close to 3%.

    We should be throwing money at STEM subjects. Students that get a strong foundation in these subjects will have a better chance of earning more money and be more employable. If they stay in Norwalk they will invest that money back into our community.

  10. Old timer

    Iannacone was part of the fire Marshall’s office. If he raised the issue and nothing was done, shame on him and shame on the BOE, and shame on all the rest of us that allow this safety hazard in public schools to continue. If there is ever a fire and somebody’s child is injured, it is going to cost the city more than the cost of some proper, nonflammable curtains.

  11. ThereUgo

    A point of clarification: Students will not be taking the new tests in 2015 simultaneously. They will be taking them in shifts over a period of time.

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