With the introduction of the PARCC testing process to PHS, the district Technology Office, repaired after a sprinkler accident in early December, has focused on adapting to the test’s technological necessities.
Located on the ground floor of PHS, the Technology Office provides a variety of services to the students and faculty of the Princeton Public School District, such as repairing technology, installing updates, and maintaining school security.
“We [take care of] the higher-level issues [at the high school], and then we have [technicians] in each building who take care of the basic issues [at the other schools] and then [bring] it to us if there’s something… that they can’t solve on the spot,” said District Manager of Information and Technology Peter Thompson.
Despite providing key services to the school, many students are unaware of its responsibilities. “I never really heard about [the Tech Office],” said Emma Glasser ’18. “I’m guessing it’s probably an office where they have a lot of supplies.”
Some students were aware of the location and appearance of the office, but not of its function. “[The Tech office is] this big office that has all these computers,” said Lindsey Lim ’15. “[I think] they have a little laser [security] system so people don’t just randomly go in.
While the Tech Office does have some responsibilities with supplies, it is the home of several employees with various specialties in different areas of technology. Different technicians coordinate classroom technology, train teachers, focus on troubleshooting problems, and specialize in network infrastructure and servers—and one network engineer even works for the district, the municipality of Princeton, and the Princeton Public Library.
These members often work closely with different people throughout the district with their technological needs. “[Grace Naumovitz-Martin] normally comes [to the Learning Commons] and takes [the laptops to the Tech Office] if there’s an issue,” said Meryll Hansen, the educational media assistant for the Learning Commons. “She’s [also] in charge of connecting printers to computers.”
The Technology Office is often a resource that staff, such as biology teacher Jacqueline Katz, use frequently. “My experiences have always been good,” she said. “This year I needed to get a computer update so they helped me out with that, and then I had a problem after the update that I couldn’t use the Internet, and then they quickly helped me out with that.”
Students can also get assistance with any issues they have with school technology. “[I] went there once to fix a password [problem] because one of my friends had an issue with their password and they got locked out of their computer,” said Vicki Addonzio ’18.
Many of the Tech Office’s employees are in fact PHS alumni and have witnessed the growth of technology in the district firsthand. “When I started [at the Tech Office] there was one computer in the whole school district … an IBM 1130,” said Thompson. “Then we had Apple II Pluses at one point, but we’ve gone through quite a bit of change over the years.”
The Tech Office’s work was interrupted on December 8 when at 3 a.m., a malfunctioning sprinkler turned on and flooded the office. “[It went off] for unknown reasons … There was no fire or anything, but it pretty much flooded everything in here making quite a mess out of the office and pretty much just [destroyed] everything on my desk,” Thompson said.
The water was two inches deep from the hallway all the way to the back of the Tech Office, which is a length of about 100 feet. “They had to wet vac it out, and we had pumps and things,” he said.
Due to the water-sensitive setting of the Tech Office, many items were affected by the spontaneous sprinkler issue. For the most part, desk computers, equipment that was being repaired, and personal items were damaged. The company All Risk put the equipment that was not harmed in cardboard boxes. “Everything that actually got wet, like equipment … was put in clear bags … so that we could then go through it and see if it was damaged or not,” Thompson said.
Due to the timing of the incident, the damage to essential equipment was limited. Server Manager Andrew Schovanec said, “[We] could have lost a lot more equipment, but the previous week we had just pushed out a lot of stuff to the school district, so what we did lose was much more minimal.”
Because the wall infrastructure in the Tech Office needed to be replaced, the office staff had to move into the Numina Gallery next door. Nevertheless, the gallery’s schedule was not disrupted because no exhibitions were scheduled for the two-week stay.
The move also did little to disrupt the functioning of the office. “We had to move out of here while everything got repaired, but … our ability to support the district and take care of everything … wasn’t really affected because all the [equipment] that runs everything is in a completely different room,” said Schovanec.
With the district-wide PARCC tests in March, April, and May, the Tech Office is busy updating its technology and making sure that there are enough computers to accommodate all the students. In order to process new Chromebook software, the Tech Office had to modify computers and link them together to do a system-wide update, as well as add more Internet connection spots to testing areas. The Tech Office was also tasked with setting up 700 Chromebooks the district bought last summer for testing in elementary and middle schools.
Over the past few months, the Tech Office has had to focus mainly on its preparations for the testing. “We [had] to make sure that there [was] a computer for every student to take the test, and we had to set up the gyms for testing so students would be able to take the full test,” Schovanec said. “We also had to make sure that everyone can log into the test without any problems. During the test we [were] available to help with any problems students [had].”
However, this extra work has not impacted the ability of the office to complete its other duties. “Most of the networking stuff that we do, we try to do off-hours, usually after 5 or 6 o’clock,” Schovanec said. In terms of our network, we did make upgrades to make our network stronger and more powerful, more robust. But that was something that we had planned to be doing previously.”
Although the PARCC had recently been the office’s main priority, its employees have maintained concrete plans for the future. “Currently, we’re working on a video system for all the students, like an in-house YouTube … We also need to get better wireless services in the elementary schools and the middle school,” Schovanec said.
Due to the nature of modern technology, constant innovation is vital. Schovanec said, “With technology, if you’re not moving forward, you’re pretty much falling behind. So that’s what we try to do … keep you at least as close to cutting-edge as we can.”