Whitehall News

Outside firm tackles whiteboard glitches, more

Technology has frustrated some teachers at new school buildings

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Tony Frownfelter, right, a sixth-grade math teacher at Rosemore Middle School, works with a smartboard projector during class at the school Friday, Feb. 21.

Dogged by persistent technology problems in its new buildings, the Whitehall City School District has taken an abrupt turn by hiring an outside company to deal with the issues.

It's a move district leaders hope will solve the nagging troubles for good.

The issues date back to 2012 when board members discussed problems with the district's new interactive whiteboards. In response, board members met December 2012 inside Rosemore Middle School's computer lab, where James Freeman, the district's director of technology, explained the systemic problems and said he was working on a fix with the companies involved.

But technology problems persisted, and were compounded late last year when one of Whitehall's network administrators left the district, officials said.

"In November, I asked a couple of companies to conduct an audit of our technology department's work," Whitehall Superintendent Brian Hamler said. "I received a great deal of complaints from the end users across the district and I needed help in assessing the environment.

"During that assessment, our network administrator resigned to take a position in Worthington," he said. "The results from both companies were not favorable and echoed what I heard in the building."

Hamler said he decided, along with the school board's unanimous approval, to bring NetOps on board.

"I made the decision to recommend two contracts to the board," said Hamler. "Managed services will replace the need for a network administrator and they will handle the back house of our system to assure security and efficiency."

An additional consulting agreement with NetOps will provide training to those manning the district's help desk, Hamler added.

"They will also lead the discussions with our building technology coordinators who will make educational decisions about technology," he said.

The contract received a warm welcome this month from board members, who have been asking about solutions to interactive whiteboard problems, along with software and connectivity issues, since the new buildings opened. As recently as May, the problem landed in the lap of project manager Craig Kertesz of Ruscilli Construction Co. Inc., who also promised to find a solution, district leaders said.

"There's nothing worse than having a classroom supplied with materials that are not effective," Blythe Wood, the school board's vice president, told Kertesz. "That frustrates me, because I see great things happening in classrooms because of interactive software."

NetOps' role is to help find solutions to those problems, said Hamler, and to make recommendations to fix them.

"NetOps also will manage all our tech-related vendors," he said.

The consulting agreement with NetOps will begin in July.

"I really feel this is a part of a fundamental shift in philosophy regarding the relationship of IT and curriculum," said Lambros Bowers, account manager for NetOps. "Curriculum should drive IT, and not the other way around."

NetOps also provides services to Licking Heights Local Schools, Beachwood City Schools near Cleveland, Holmes County, and Midwest Industries in Canton.