“Creating partnerships with the community is an important piece of a school system. When we all put kids first, great things happen,” said Marblehead Superintendent of Schools Maryann Perry about the recent $50,000 grant from the Friends of the Marblehead Public Schools (FMPS) to create a Wi-Fi network at Marblehead High School. “We went live in late January, and the network is being used by students and teachers for teaching and learning,” announced Ken Lord, Supervisor of Technology for Marblehead Public Schools.
Students, parents, and staff new to Marblehead High School were surprised to learn there wasn’t a building-wide Wi-Fi network already in place, but the technology gap existed because the school was built in 2002, when “wireless technology was in its infancy,” Lord explained. However, the deficiency wasn’t addressed as the years went on, and a robust Wi-Fi network is now viewed as a necessity. “Many of the new textbooks and curricular programs refer to web-based sites which support classroom learning,” explained Marblehead High School Principal Layne Millington. “And community-wide, there’s been a request to allow students the ability to use their own electronics at the high school whether it be smart phones, tablets, or laptops.” When Lord was hired in 2012, he set Wi-Fi at MHS as the top priority in his technology plan, but there was no money in the budget for a building-wide network. All that existed was a cobbled together network with only ten access points, he explained. “Only parts of the building had coverage; it quickly got overwhelmed, and there were constant problems.”
“I think the technology plan really brought the extreme need to light,” Lord explained. “I was invited to present to the Friends of the Marblehead Public Schools, and then I wrote a grant to FMPS and hoped for the best.” The group carefully considered the proposal because, “this was an unusual grant for FMPS, both in terms of size and timing,” FMPS Vice President Molly Bushman explained. In the end, “the Board was very excited to be in a position to take a leadership role in bringing on-line teaching, learning, and research capability to every classroom at MHS. We’re sure that this will also enable more robust traditional grant ideas that we can fund in the future.”
“When I found out we had $50,000 to work with, I was thrilled beyond belief,” said Lord. “It’s such a huge step forward. It allowed us to cover most of the building: it covers the English, math, science, social studies and special education classrooms, and a few public areas. I think it’s a seed that will excite other groups to help us get funding to get coverage for the rest of the school.” Filters will help regulate appropriate usage, and “it is our expectation that the network is for education and not personal entertainment,” he added.