When Orange students came back to school after summer break, it was clear that the custodial and maintenance staff had not had much of a break, getting the schools prepared for the new year. But what wasn’t quite so obvious was the improvements that happened behind the scenes, particularly regarding technology, teaching staff and celebrations.
Upgrades to the district website include a way for parents now to report students’ absence online. “Go to ‘Family Resources’ on the district’s main page and fill out a form and the results will be submitted to the office staff at that child’s school,” explained IT Director Matt Ullring. “We’ve also added a safety tips hotline. It’s basically so that we can receive anonymous or non-anonymous tips from the public to improve on student safety.” The website was also made more accessible for those who are hearing or visually impaired.
Summer projects included wiring additions, curriculum enhancements and hardware move and maintenance. “We’ve added ethernet ports to each classroom so that teachers can plug their laptops in and get much faster internet speeds,” Ullring says.
“We’ve implemented PowerTeacher Pro for teachers to use as their new grading and attendance system. It’s web-based and easier to use compared to its predecessor, PowerSchool Gradebook, which had to be downloaded, installed and then teachers had to log into it. Now, with one click, it brings them right into their gradebook,” he says. With the new solution will come newly designed report cards, which will take on a whole new look this year.
Next, the schools’ speaker systems will be replaced. Currently each school has a speaker system that is on one zone and when an announcement is made, the whole neighborhood hears it. “We’re working on separating the outdoor speakers from the indoor speakers so that the outdoor ones can only be used for lockdown drills or emergencies,” explains Ullring.
“Technology touches everything that we do, in all ways of our lives,” Superintendent Vince Scarpetti says. “I’m totally excited to have the new school year beginning.”
One non-technology change that goes into effect at the start of the school year is a new wellness policy to the district. “As a friendly reminder, we will continue to have classroom celebrations with birthdays, but they will no longer consist of food and we are thinking of creative ways to celebrate your children’s birthdays,” Scarpetti says.
Scarpetti announced a number of new hires at each of the schools at the August meeting of the Board of Education, some filled positions left open by resignations and retirements, and a few were driven by student need. The district starts the year with 1,142 students this year, down just 11 students from last year.
“We’re staying consistent,” Scarpetti says. “That number typically continues to grow throughout the year.”
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent