Technically speaking at MCISD

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While many of us treasure the earmarks of small town life that are still common practices in our area, we want, we insist on, an educational system that will prepare our young people to meet the challenges of the future.  The Technology Department of MCISD is key in making sure that local schools (all campuses, all departments) are up to speed with today’s ever-evolving technology. These are the employees of the Technology Department:

  • Sharon Cotten, PEIMS Coordinator
  • Laney Smith, Director of Technology
  • John Vinson, System Administrator
  • Melissa Bridges, Technological Instructor
  • Tim Fraley, Technological Instructor
  • Joey Smith, Technological Instructor

The magnitude of the group’s responsibilities is beyond impressive, with the number of computers in the school system rapidly approaching 2,000. The tech department services them all, which includes everything from hardware to software to infrastructure.  Their work manifests itself in areas such as the library at MHS, which contains 28 computers and is essentially a computer lab, well-used by students for research, completing projects, college applications, and much more.

Unique in her job description is Sharon Cotten, who heads up the district’s Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS). In turn, each campus has its own PEIMS clerk who coordinates with Cotten.  The clerks gather and enter student information and demographics, which must be scrupulously compiled and submitted to the Texas Education Agency.  Painstaking, yes, but also vital, Cotten said, “Everything we do is a TEA requirement.”

The remaining five work with a much broader spectrum of assignments. John Vinson, whom Larry Krumnow first named Director Of Technology in 1992, has seen incredible change through the passing years.  “We once were a technical department.  While that is still needed, we have shifted the focus of our efforts to instruction, “ Vinson said.

Melissa Bridges takes the lead on the challenge of state-mandated testing.  Important information is passed down from the state and must be passed on to campus leaders and teachers in time for students to be informed and prepared.  In addition, some student populations are actually testing online, and they must be familiarized with the skills needed for that.  Bridges said. “TEA is currently updating their platform, which should make the testing communications much better.”

In fact, the past six years have produced a burgeoning integration of technology into MCISD’s classrooms.  Smart Boards, clickers, dual credit college classes, and distance learning are everyday occurrences for students,  and instruction and trouble shooting for these are all part of a day’s work for the Technology Department.  In addition, grade books, attendance, campus memos, parental communications, extracurricular schedules, lunchroom menus, instructional videos, lesson plans and more are disrupted when technology issues occur.

I can personally testify to how happy a teacher is to see one of the technology gurus arrive when computer difficulties are plaguing that teacher’s own classroom/computer/computers.  The tech expert unobtrusively walks into the room and begins to work his or her magic, and soon the teacher is up and running again.  This is one of the advantages of MCISD:  individualized help is more readily available than it might be in a larger district with campuses more distant from one another.

On the other hand, being a smaller school does not mean the staff and students have reduced access to the latest technological developments.  With decades of experience to his credit, John Vinson said,  “We have always been on the cutting edge of technology, as much as our resources allow.”

“We do not lag behind because of our size.  When we attend trainings across Texas, Madisonville is as advanced as much larger and often wealthier districts, “ Joey Smith added.

Looking back at the history of technology within the district, some in the group remembered more than thirty years ago when Don Reynolds was the first Madisonville superintendent to stress the need for a long-term technology plan for Madisonville.  Tim Fraley recalled that in that same decade, Linda Trichel taught computer skills at MHS, and at about the same time Linda Carpenter was introducing junior high students to keyboarding and computer basics.

Resources have constantly evolved and become more sophisticated since those times, and the Technology Department is dedicated to staying abreast of it all.  However, Laney Smith was quick to direct credit for learning back to proficient classroom teachers. 

“We just supply the tools.  They are only as good and as effective as the user,” she said.

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