Island Park congratulates two valuable staff members on their honors bestowed by the Nassau Association of School Technologists. Education Technology Specialist Christine Chu, who is retiring after 17 years in the district, was recognized for her contributions, and Information Technology Specialist William McCrann was presented with a NASTECH NASTAR Award.
At a NASTECH awards ceremony held earlier this month, Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Rosmarie Bovino, was invited to speak about Ms. Chu’s visionary service and the many technology programs the district has implemented during her tenure. Ms. Chu commented afterwards about the the work she has overseen and several of the initiatives for which she has been responsible.
She supported initiatives that enhanced instruction such as Claymation, My Learning Plan, United Streaming and WeatherBug, as well as the Mission US online history program and Rosetta Stone application. Also, she supported the Board of Education’s mission for “Students to become (…) critical thinkers and compassionate citizens prepared to face the challenges of this rapidly changing world” by helping them use interactive technologies such as the Smart Board with responsive clicker systems. These tools, with Ms. Chu’s guidance, enabled teachers to ask different types of questions and receive immediate answers from students for purposes of developing higher order thinking skills through friendly competition and real-time formative assessment. These systems were installed in every classroom until a new generation of game-based learning platforms were introduced.
Under Ms. Chu’s leadership, the district partnered with Cornell University to build, exhibit, and share knowledge through the medium of virtual worlds in their SciFair ActiveWorlds program. This was later expanded to include the River City Project through Harvard University, which presented further ways for students to explore, collect data and analyze results.
Ms. Chu helped to create and introduce Internet safety programs for students in collaboration with Mrs. Janofsky; and regularly contributed to and assisted Dr. Bovinop with the updating of the District Technology Plan and Mission Statement. She also helped to develop the framework for the K-8 Technology Curriculum. Additionally, she created a Jeopardy Template that many teachers use in the classroom and she started the tradition of a graduation video and portrait presentation when she came to the district 17 years ago.
As the Island Park technology program grew, Ms. Chu assisted with the selection of 3D printers, iPads and iPad carts for classrooms. She worked with administrators and project managers on lab designs, taking Island Park from a single-lab district to one with three labs in the elementary school and five in the middle school. She also also helped introduce the zSpace virtual reality learning experiences that are interactive and multisensory. This program received front page recognition in Newsday. Ms. Chu oversaw the implementation of the district’s award-winning Lego Robotics program about five years ago, maintaining an ongoing relationship with Tufts University and Dr. Chris Rogers. Even NASA has taken notice and reached out for information on student research related to this program. In 2017, technology directors from other Nassau County districts visited Island Park to observe some of these initiatives in action.
She has led many in-service courses for teachers and staff, including courses in eChalk, Excel, PhotoShop, PowerPoint and Word. She and colleagues have presented on several of the district’s technology features at local and regional conferences, and she has coordinated partnerships with experts in the field of technology.
Mrs. Chu worked with the Superintendent to secure $260,000 in funding from the Smart Schools Investment Plan, which Island Park was the first district in the state to complete.
Mr. McCrann, the district’s Information Technology Specialist, has been with Island Park Schools for nearly ten years. He began by providing network and techinical support through Nassau BOCES and then joined the school staff nearly six years ago. He was recently honored with the NASTAR Award as a technology innovator who seamlessly leads the charge in integrating technology into the schools.
This past spring, Mr. McCrann worked with district and Nassau BOCES administrators to secure $130,000 in E-rate funding for improvements to the district’s network and infrastructure that will be instituted next year. Among the changes that will take place is a new firewall to control all inbound and outbound network traffic, block inappropriate or harmful websites, and protect the network. Also forthcoming is a new wireless controller, which will help the district get faster Wi-Fi speeds and manage access points more efficiently. There will also be a new backup UPS (uninterruptible power supply) to keep network devices powered in the event of a power outage.
The balance of E-rate purchases include expansion modules and high-speed cables, which will increase the bandwidth and speed between network switches, and wiring closets throughout the district. There will also be an additional Cisco switch to expand the network and connect more devices.
“One benefit of these changes will be an increase in our security that will protect the network against intrusions,” Mr. McCrann said. “Another is that we will be operating at a much higher speed and level of efficiency, which is important because we have a lot of wireless devices on the network.”
“We have been grateful to have Ms. Chu and Mr. McCrann on board here in the district,” Dr. Bovino said. “They have really made a difference in taking our technology to the next level and bringing a new world of learning opportunities into the classrooms. We wish Ms. Chu the best in her retirement and congratulate Mr. McCrann on a well-deserved award.”