2017 Retrospective

With the clock ticking toward 2018, it’s once again time to reflect on another year of technology projects and programs at Penn Manor School District. Here are highlights from an incredible 12 months:

The tech department undoubtedly transformed this year. A cascade of staff departures, reassignments, and promotions spurred the most substantial team reorganization in our history. At the start of the year, we welcomed Lisa Lewis as the Manor Middle Technology Aide. In March, Chad Billman, our long-time Systems Engineer, was promoted to Assistant Technology Director. Nick Joniec became the district System Administrator in the spring. And in the summer, Judy Keller was promoted to Training Specialist for elementary schools.

With two positions still open in August, our small crew braced for a rough start to the new school year. But the team rallied. Nick Joniec, Nate Moss, and Jason Sauders deserve special recognition for their attitude, energy, and relentlessness. The trio worked colossal tech support miracles in spite of being overextended for three months.

By October, we welcomed Program Assistant, Gretchen Woodward, and Support Specialist, Caitlin Gibson. As the first autumn leaves settled more than half of our technology staff found themselves in a new position, a different building assignment, or with new areas of responsibility!

Despite the great Reorg of ’17, we still managed to get things done:

  • A laptop refresh and Windows 10 upgrade for more than 200 elementary and middle school teachers.
  • Extensive platform and software upgrades to our food service, payroll, fund accounting, purchasing, and transportation enterprise applications.
  • A major messaging migration from Exchange to Gmail for all staff email accounts.
  • Alex Lagunas was recognized as Penn Manor employee of the year. Congratulations, Alex!
  • Classroom AV and network cabling renovations at Martic Elementary and Marticville Middle School.
  • A lightning fast rebuild of Conestoga Elementary’s classroom technology infrastructure after building construction completed in August.
  • The paperless student records scanning project accelerated–full digital student records for more than 50% of our students are now available in our student management system. Thanks, Sue Smith!

On top of the infrastructure projects, we launched a one-to-one student laptop pilot in 11 elementary classrooms. In August, 275 fifth and sixth-grade students at Central Manor, Eshleman, Hambright, and Martic Elementary received the same powerful, open source learning tools used in middle and high school. The laptop pilot made an immediate impact on teaching and learning. And lessons learned serve as a guidebook for a possible expansion of the program to additional elementary classrooms at a later date.

More to come in 2018!

Students with Linux Laptops

Open School Leadership

Free and open source software is the catalyst for Penn Manor School District’s award-winning student learning programs. For one, they save the school district more than a million dollars on its technology budget. Besides fiscal savings are the open leadership principles that foster innovation among teachers and students, help to better engage the community, and create a more vibrant and inclusive learning community.

Read more from the opensource.com article, These 3 practices revolutionized Penn Manor’s school culture.

2016 Technology Rewind

With 2016 slipping into the history books it is time to reflect on an exciting year of technology projects at Penn Manor School District. Here are a few highlights:

The year started with a ring. In January, we unveiled a new automated attendance call notification system. When a student is marked absent, their parent or guardian automatically receives an alert via phone. Attendance notification calls first launched at Penn Manor High School and expanded to all ten school buildings by the spring.

In March, Penn Manor received a District of Distinction award from District Administration Magazine for our open source laptop project and innovative high school student help desk. The recognition is a testament to the innovative one-to-one learning program and the work of terrific Penn Manor teachers and staff.

Summer was, as always, hot and brisk! As students and teachers left for an extended break, our summer IT plans kicked into high-gear. First up was a copier system refresh.  A fleet of 41 new multifunction copiers arrived in June, along with an entirely new print management software system. During July, the team upgraded more than 4000 student laptops to a current software image of Ubuntu 16.04. The team installed new Meraki MR32 wireless access points at Manor Middle and Penn Manor High School, boosting network performance at both buildings. And in August tech staff raced to prepare Pequea Elementary for the post-renovations return of students.

After six months of detailed planning, preparation, and production, the new Penn Manor School District website design launched at the start of the 2016-2017 school. The custom-designed WordPress theme was an ambitious visual upgrade. Big, bold photography now highlights student success stories, featured articles, and department pages. Penn Manor High School’s website received the new design in December. The other nine school buildings will undergo the same design upgrade in the first half of 2017.

During the summer and fall of 2016, we transitioned Penn Manor’s full-time virtual school program to the Edgenuity learning platform. Edgenuity’s catalog of online course material is also available for middle and high school teachers to use in day-to-day instruction.

Open source platforms remain the bedrock of our educational technology infrastructure. Students and staff enjoyed new features in Koha, Moodle, Nextcloud, and WordPress. And the Technology Team transitioned from IRC to Mattermost for real-time communication and messaging.

The Technology Team welcomed two new staff additions in 2016. Nate Moss joined as the building technology specialist for Central Manor and Letort Elementary. Nate’s Fun Fact Friday presentations became a favorite weekly tradition! Nick Joneic, a former high school student technology apprentice and building technology aide, became the Technology Specialist for Hambright Elementary and Manor Middle School.

On a personal note, I published my first book, The Open Schoolhouse in October. The book chronicles the 16-year history of Penn Manor open source technology projects, culminating with the one-to-one laptop program and student help desk. It was an honor to document the amazing achievements of our students, teachers, and technology staff—I have the best job in the world!

Happy New Year!