April 10, 2024

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Technology director provides update on MCSD summer projects | News, Sports, Jobs

Technology director provides update on MCSD summer projects | News, Sports, Jobs

Technology director provides update on MCSD summer projects | News, Sports, Jobs

T-R PHOTO BY ROBERT MAHARRY
Marshalltown Community School District Director of Technology Amy Harmsen provided updates on several summer projects during Monday night’s regular school board meeting.

Marshalltown Community School District Director of Technology Amy Harmsen came before the board to provide an update on several key projects heading into summer during Monday night’s regular meeting.

“I know that you are very well aware of the amount of projects we have in the tech department, and sometimes when I just come up here and ask for this thing or that thing, it’s kind of hard to see it contextually and it’s hard to know if we’re sort of willy nilly getting these things done or if there’s a big plan,” she said. “So I’m kind of here to, first of all, assure you that there is a big plan and then ask you for a lot of things.”

Noting that the board hears about technology in the district frequently from a variety of angles, Harmsen said she and her team are working hard to ensure students have the best tools to ensure their ongoing success and preparedness for whatever comes after high school. Currently, the MCSD has eight members of the tech staff, 8,000 Google and Active Directory users, 380 desktop computers, 8,066 Chromebook laptops, 642 phones, 325 projectors, 255 security cameras (with more to potentially come), over 200 switches, over 400 access points, over 40 copiers, over 100 printers and 11 buildings to keep secure.

“As you can see, that’s quite a bit for a staff of eight to be working on, but I really think that we do a good job and we have people in place who not only know their job well, but they have made connections with people that we really trust in the private sector to help advise on the things that we should be doing,” Harmsen said. “So even if it feels like we’re running a sprint in a marathon, we’re actually really trying to do it with some checks and balances and some reason behind why we make the choices that we make.”

From there, she dove into some of the marquee projects, including vape detectors — with installation and integration with the camera system expected by the next day after the meeting although the detectors themselves had been installed a few weeks prior. She explained the process of how they will work, what different lights mean and how notification of potential violations will be routed to the correct district personnel.

“That’s just one tool on how we’re thinking about ensuring that vaping does not happen in our schools. So we’re working out the kinks of that, but it is installed and we’re really excited about it,” Harmsen said. “It’s working. Ask any administrator in the 5-12 setting if they’re getting notifications, and they are.”

She added, however, that there are a few glitches to work through, as loud noises can set off the detector as well. Harmsen then ran down a new audio enhancement and paging system to help amplify a teacher’s voice, which is drawing favorable reviews from staff so far.

She also reported that the staff has worked “exhaustively” to find the best option for enhancing building security, and fiber has been installed at the new MCSD Welcome Center inside the Orpheum Theater as of Monday with internet to come shortly. The Roundhouse to stadium fiber construction has been bored with the fiber set to be finished Friday, and the new stadium will be equipped with switches, cameras and access points.

Adding a video intercom to the front door at Miller Middle School is in progress, and business classes will be allowed to use the new esports lab for a couple of periods during the day to utilize specific programs those computers can handle. Harmsen and new MCSD Communications Director Abby Koch are nearing completion on the updated district website, which Harmsen described as a “labor of love” before thanking Stalzer Photography for their assistance with the project.

Other updates included the Chromebook replacements, which the board later approved by a unanimous vote, the Vivi Elementary wireless projecting and paging, the Miller Middle School/MHS wireless projecting and the server replacement.

The board approved the server replacement shortly thereafter during the meeting after Harmsen explained that a big server had recently failed, and she credited District Server Specialist Sebastian Ramirez for “MacGyvering” another system together to get through the school year.

“All of these things we have on replacement cycles. It’s a giant jigsaw puzzle of what year we can pay for this and what year we can pay for this, so this was something that threw a bit of a curveball at us,” Harmsen said. “But I have worked with Randy and we’ve really figured out a way to ensure that we can keep up and running and maybe even improve a few of our processes.”

Board member Zach Wahl thanked Harmsen for doing a great job keeping the district up to date, and she was quick to share credit with her team.

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Contact Robert Maharry

at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or [email protected].



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