Board of Education hears tech talk

The Wilton Board of Education began its final public meeting of the 2013 calendar year by electing new officers.

Bruce Likly was re-elected as chairman, with Chris Finkelstein moving to the role of vice chairman, which was vacated by Gilmore Bray. Laura Schwemm succeeded Karen Birck as secretary.

New members Glenn Hemmerle and Chris Stroup joined existing member Lory Rothstein on the board.

With the authorization for the 2014 calendar in place, committee assignments handed out, and other small bookkeeping items addressed, the organizational meeting, which preceded the regular meeting, concluded.

Director of Technology Matt Hepfer was the featured speaker of the evening, delivering a presentation on technology projects. Mr. Hepfer highlighted several facets of the technology in the school system, including the presence of Smart Boards in every classroom and the iPad cart donated by the Wilton Education Foundation at Miller-Driscoll School. This led to the creation of the iPad pilot program at the school.

At Cider Mill School, the Blackboard Engage system (formerly known as Edline) keeps parents aware of their child’s assignments. Over the summer, mounted projectors and Smart Boards were installed in the special education classrooms. Also of interest was the introduction of document cameras, which, said Mr. Hepfer, “allow teachers to display any handwritten document, object, or photo from a book to the Smart Board. Images can be taken, manipulated, and annotated in real time.”

Middlebrook School received the installation of wireless access in all classrooms during the summer.

“It was a tough installation season for us,” Mr. Hepfer said. “The power was cut off. They didn’t have running water, but they got it in. The real excitement is to walk through and see how naturally the teachers use that wireless.”

Other highlights of Mr. Hepfer’s presentation included the district data team, which seeks to improve classroom instruction, review data to reflect student performance, and analyze data for the strategic improvement of the school district.

The presentation served as an opportunity for Mr. Hepfer to review what was accomplished in regard to last year’s budget, but to also begin to look forward to planning for this year’s budget.

He said that, with the movement to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the need to invest in hardware, software, infrastructure, and professional learning would be very important.

“Ultimately, a child’s experience with technology in the Wilton schools should not depend on which teacher they have for a particular grade or subject,” Mr. Hepfer said in his presentation.

He outlined the overall district needs, and the needs for the individual schools, with the push for Smart Boards, servers, and backups among the myriad thoughts.

Using his own iPad, he demonstrated some of the many things it is capable of as an educational tool, such as making a movie to explain what students are learning and how they’re learning it. For a little showmanship, he activated a video in which band director Chip Gawle played a portion of My Favorite Things on the trumpet as a way of welcoming Mr. Hemmerle and Mr. Stroup to the board.

In his report, Superintendent Gary Richards said the Wilton High School counseling department and the college and career resource center held a college admissions presentation on Dec. 3. Juniors and their parents heard a talk from Ann Fleming-Brown, director of admissions at Union College.

“Based on the evaluative feedback, the evening was a great success,” Dr. Richards said.

While the Board of Education will not hold a regular meeting until January, a budget review and study session will be held on Dec. 19 at 3 in the professional library at Wilton High School.