hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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March 17, 2011

Scully unveils ambitious tech plan for city schools

Usually, it's students who give their teacher an apple. But School Superintendent James Scully wants to put an Apple in reach of every student.

Scully has unveiled a two-year technology improvement plan that would not only improve the district Internet and networking infrastructure, but also place some of the latest Apple devices in the hands of students across all grade levels.

"It's not a question of us wanting to do it," he said. "Kids are demanding it."

According to Scully, these new updates will tackle the long-standing problem of "piecemeal updates" to the district's technology. Within the coming years, Scully said, he hopes to update computer labs throughout the district with Apple's MacBook laptops as the de facto computer standard. He added that PC labs with Dell computers, additional Web servers, and new mobile iPod labs should also arrive within the next few years.

"Over the last 10 years, everything has been done piecemeal," he said. "The problem is the system isn't capable."

Funding for a number of these initiatives will come through grants and promotional deals struck with technology companies.

The district is still in the process of negotiating purchases, but the first Mac lab, which will be installed at the Whittier Middle School, will cost about $60,000. Scully said a combination of grants and district money will pay for it.

In the meantime, however, IT department employees will have their work cut out for them.

Pamela Carr, who doubles as both the city and Haverhill Public Schools director of technology, said one of the key challenges her department faces in improving network speed and access throughout the district is the construction of the buildings themselves.

Since many were built before or just on the cusp of the Internet boom in the late 1990s, they cannot be rewired without dismantling ceiling tiles or navigating through thick cement walls. Those walls also hinder wireless signals from reaching every classroom.

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