Every week, The Sun will ask candidates in the April 21 election for Board of Education to respond to questions pertinent to local issues. Here, you can find the responses, in full, from each candidate each week. To view past responses, click on the “Schools” tab, or search “Meet the Candidates.”
Questions for April 1:
1.) How would you assess the district’s technology resources?
2.) What changes, if any, would you make to enhance the quality of education?
1.) Moorestown schools have very good technological resources that must continue to improve. Our school district has developed Web portals for parents, has developed programs for our students to incorporate technology into their daily learning and has developed. To stay in front of the curve, our district has established a technology committee comprised of all stakeholders in the school community to establish ongoing needs.
Currently, our students receive exposure to computers from kindergarten and continue to learn how to use computers as a tool during their entire educational career. Every school has at least one computer lab and every teacher has a computer in their classroom. Many teachers have the use of projectors and in some cases whiteboards to enhance student education.
However, our schools must continue to embrace changes in technology and find ways to further integrate technology. A cost-effective way to improve material content in the classroom would be to enter into agreements with other schools, as well as the Moorestown and county libraries, permitting the sharing of media content, thereby cost effectively expanding the resources available.
We also need focus on whether the technological resources we acquire are being used, and if not, whether additional training is needed to improve the usage, or whether there is a better alternative to the technology being purchased. To wildly purchase cutting-edge technology without having proper instruction on how to use the technology is unwise.
It is therefore imperative that we expand the proficiency of our teachers in current technological advancements, which will increase the learning experiences of our students. Such training would also permit an expansion to the curriculum, providing the opportunity for additional classes on Web design, programming and other electronic media, vital in today’s technological world. I also support partnering with local businesses to provide real world understanding of the applications learned in the classroom.
Continued use of the Moorestown Township Public Schools Technology Plan will assist us in carefully expanding technology in our schools. Through these efforts, we as a community will have well-prepared students for today’s world and better problem solvers for tomorrow’s world.
2.) Moorestown schools currently provide an excellent education to our students today, just as they did for my wife and I more than 20 years ago. However, the education system today is not what it was 20 years ago, nor will it be the same over the next five years, let alone the next 20 years.
In order to continue to provide quality education to our students, it is important to continue to provide new programs and new teaching tools. Moorestown schools provide a great opportunity for children who graduate at the top of the class to go to some of the finest higher educational facilities in the country. This fine tradition can expand by having more of our students prepared for higher education.
One program that was recently instituted at the schools is to assist the “middle student,” those students who test well, but whose grades don’t reflect their test scores, or vice versa.
Understandably, the school district is very focused, due to federal and state educational initiatives, on the highest achievers and students with special needs. However, the “middle students” must also receive the additional support and assistance necessary for them to perform to their highest potential. These types of programs should receive our fullest support.
The graduates from our schools are Moorestown’s ambassadors to the world. We should, as a community, explore every reasonable avenue to ensure that our students convey to the world the excellence of our community. The best way to assure this is to ensure that our children are well educated.
WILLIAM VAN FOSSEN
1.) The district has done a good job in making sound investments in technology. It is vitally important that our students have the technological knowhow so that they can compete in this fast-paced world.
We have made investments in PCs and high speed Internet that allow our students to have access to age-appropriate databases.
Computers are currently used in all phases of learning in our schools. We also utilize online Measure of Academic Progress testing to help teachers evaluate ongoing student progress.
We recently implemented the Parent Portal that allows grade 6–12 parents access to their child’s online grades.
From a safety standpoint, the district has made investments in Connect-Ed, the district wide phone calling system, security cameras and cell phone repeaters that allow communication to all areas of our schools.
We have given our students the tools that they need to compete.
Having said all that, we will continue to focus on hiring the best teachers and administrators for our schools. There is no greater positive impact on a student than having a great teacher.
2.) During my three years on the board, we have focused on continuous improvement. I will see that we continue that trend if re-elected. We will continue to enhance the educational experience in academics, the arts and athletics for all students.
The goal over the last two years has been to get the right people in the right positions, particularly from an administration standpoint.
I believe that we have done that, and we are now starting to feel a real sense of stability in the district.
This is a good foundation for the district and gives us the necessary leadership to move the district forward in the coming years.
There will be many challenges ahead of us, particularly as it relates to school funding. It is imperative that we have outstanding leadership, both from our staff and our board.
1.) For the past 12 years, technology and education have been the two words that I have most associated with my professional life. As an owner of LearnQuest, a corporate training company focused on information technology education, I have been in a unique position to learn how technology can be used effectively:
- To enhance the learning experience by offering blended multiple delivery modalities, including technology-driven simulations, online virtual classroom and self-paced e-learning
- To reduce administrative costs through the implementation of learning management and content management systems
- To provide access to information to learners with various learning styles, (visual, auditory, tactile, etc.) rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to education
When evaluated against comparable school districts, Moorestown has an impressive list of technology resources available to students, parents and administrators. Moorestown has an above average student/PC ratio. For students, Moorestown offers numerous age-appropriate online resources and searchable databases for class research. For teachers, Moorestown provides an electronic grading system, Web pages for classroom resources and online databases of curriculum material. Furthermore, Moorestown is investing in technology-enhanced classrooms with state-of-the-art audio/visual systems.
While the list of available technology resources is impressive by “district” standards, we can do so much more! I have the background and experience to introduce a technology education strategy that will significantly increase the quality of learning in our classrooms. Technology is no longer just a tool among many that teachers have to use on an as-needed basis. Technology is integrated into all aspects of our lives, and more so the lives of our children, and provides the framework by which they interact with each other and the world.
Technology is broadening our horizons and expanding our children’s universe through unparalleled access to information. By cautiously, carefully and deliberately embracing the best practices available in the world of technology, we can better prepare our children for tomorrow and their future.
2.) The quality of education in the district can be significantly improved. Despite saying this, I fully recognize that we have a very talented administrative and teaching staff that is committed to a high quality of education.
Furthermore, I know that Moorestown has been, by most objective measurements, one of the elite public school districts in South Jersey. Because the quality of education for our children is such an important issue for so many of us, I am not satisfied with the status quo. There is significant room for improvement, which can only be accomplished with vision and passion, new ideas and energy.
We need to expand beyond a parochial mindset of education when we’re preparing our children for a world of global competition. Technology can be a key driver in expanding boundaries, as well as accelerating the learning curve.
We need to more frequently evaluate and change the curriculum to stay with the times. We need to establish more consistency in education from classroom to classroom.
We need to challenge the policies of the past and make sure they still apply to education today. The way it has always been done cannot be a substitute for the way it should be done. We need a system that rewards those teachers excel and make a real difference, and focus on educating and improving the skills of the ones that don’t. To do this properly, we need to tie rewards to a variety of assessments of learning progress, not just scores on standardized tests.
1.) This question could be interpreted in two different ways. Is the question asking for an opinion of the current state of technology resources in the Moorestown School District, or is the question asking how would I go about assessing these resources in our district? I will answer both.
I have spoken with Jeff Stern, the director of information technology for the Moorestown district. Mr. Stern provided a comprehensive assessment of what is available in our district. The list is significant and indicates many excellent resources already available to our students.
I believe more information is necessary to properly determine how our district fares in the area of technology. We have the information of what is available, however, we need to understand how IT is being used in the classrooms.
It is not enough to possess the resources. Technology needs to be integrated into the learning process. Based on the pioneering work of Howard Gardner (founder of Multiple Intelligence Theory), learning is enhanced by students immersing themselves in the educational material, and using multiple senses and modalities to “work with the material.” For example, watching a video may be little more than a passive learning experience. Whereas, integrating video with reading, synthesized writing and practical application provides a more holistic education experience.
We need to have a good understanding on how our district compares to other high performing school in New Jersey, nationally and even globally. President Obama, when speaking about the importance of education, also explains why it is imperative that we keep up with education standards nationally and globally.
This is an area where corporate sponsorships may be appropriate. As I mentioned last week, extreme caution needs to be used in accepting corporate sponsorships. While I might be in favor of accepting technology equipment from corporations, I would absolutely not favor advertisements for these corporations running while the computers are in use. Certainly, these corporations would be acknowledged for such donations, but we would not want that to interfere with the use of them.
2.) While I believe that Moorestown School district offers an excellent quality of education, I also believe there is always room for improvement. I believe that our teachers are our greatest resource to education in our district. We have many great teachers. I feel we need to continue to bring great educators to be a part of our team. I also feel we need to provide the tools in order for them to accomplish this. They need a safe environment in which to teach and students to learn. This would include everything from indoor air quality and support for classroom discipline to providing a substance-free school zone. Teachers need to be given our complete support.
I would like to hear from teachers — how can we better serve and support you in your role as educators? We can have the best technology in the world, but what really matters is having the best teachers to use all these wonderful resources. I think we also need to allow the teachers, the administration and staff the freedom to do their jobs. In other words, we need to keep minor inconveniences or small issues to a minimum. Our administration seems to hear from us when things do not go right, but how about then they do? Do they hear from us then?
1.) Moorestown is fortunate to have past and present administrations that put great emphasis on bringing technology-based systems to the schools. However, our district tends to bring these enhancements to the classroom without properly understanding how to apply the technology and ensure its implementation in the classrooms.
All students, by state standards, need to be proficient in the use of a computer. The district offers professional development to the staff to achieve these standards, but classrooms sometimes fall short of real life scenarios.
Overall, technology resources in the district are adequate for the basics, but to compete in the global workforce, our students need exposure to advanced applications in the sciences, math, literature, writing and language curriculums.
Currently, Moorestown has achieved a district-wide student/computer ratio of almost three students per computer. In today’s world however, access to online information does not have to come from a standard desktop set-up. With Blackberries, notebooks and cell phones, information is easily accessible from any location at any time of the day. Wireless Internet and Bluetooth technology allows multiple students to access printers, participate in classroom blogs via whiteboards and even communicate across classrooms, schools and other districts.
In today’s world, purchasing a standard computer set up is counter-intuitive to how technology is actually used. We need to encourage all students to use alternate technologies in the classrooms through application-based learning. Implementing sound protocols and user policies will allow us to embrace the learning potential of technology without worrying that students will try to cheat.
Learning does not just occur from a book but is a constant moving process of ideas, challenges and innovations that spark young imaginations.
2.) Moorestown has a long and storied reputation for producing students who excel academically. Not all of our students, however, reach their potential. Enhancing the quality of education in the district should be about reaching all students. A new model for education needs to be an ongoing, fluid exploration that moves away from standard book-based learning to applications learning. All students would benefit from a variety of learning experiences based on a combination of books, applied applications and technology.
Teachers need to be role models and facilitators for their students in this new way of learning. New horizons for students open by showing them new and innovative ways of learning with imbedded technology.
The shy, introverted or special needs student can easily join an online classroom discussion about a current affairs topic without being overshadowed by more extroverted classmates. Students learn first-hand proper computer etiquette and rules of citation to enhance their learning skills while the teacher facilitates the discussion. Incorporating the state standards in a new model requires a new approach to learning. Instead of insisting that learning can only occur from old models, we need to realize that the use of multiple technologies would free students to achieve higher learning plateaus.
Suppose a student dreams of being a scientist but is not as proficient in math. Why not allow them access to technology support for math (i.e. calculators, computers, formulas on iPods, etc.) instead of insisting they master basic computation repeatedly?
Rather, focus the student on the science, supporting and encouraging them to achieve their dream. Ultimately, the student not only excels in the science but also masters the basics with a little technological help. Who knows what future Einstein is lurking in Basic Math 2?