Comprised of four schools serving ~2,350 students in Pre-K through 12th grade, the New Providence School District is dedicated to developing an innovative and modernized instructional framework that helps to enhance a learner-driven classroom environment. “New Providence is a small public school system, where each and every student is given the attention and support they need to succeed,” shares Alex Menard, Manager of Information Systems, New Providence School District. “We have a vibrant community with a solid history of strong relationships between the teacher’s union, administration, Board of Education, and members of the community. The district’s success has been supported by these strong connections and a team of dedicated professionals.”
Beginning his career in the district 23 years ago, Menard is responsible for the planning, purchasing, and implementation of the technology infrastructure, classroom technology, and student and teacher devices. “When I started out, there was limited funding for technology,” says Menard. “We would often look for used equipment from large enterprises and would replace computers once every seven to 10 years. Over time, school administrators and the Board of Education approved larger investments to support technology in the district. The evolution began with wiring classrooms for computers in the mid 1990s, adding celling-mounted classroom projectors in the mid 2000s, followed by Smartboards starting in 2006. Today, we have iPads for each student and teacher, along with interactive projectors in classrooms.”
Embracing New Technology
With a dedication to teacher and student success, New Providence has always looked to see what lies on the horizon to determine needed technology and how to offer the necessary support when new hardware, tools, and applications are introduced. “Additional staff were added along the way to help support the infrastructure, staff, and teachers. Training teachers how to effectively integrate technology into the curriculum has always been at the forefront of classroom technology initiatives,” explains Menard. “Before the pandemic, we supported a one-to-one iPad initiative in grades 8 through 12. Now, we have expanded this initiative to all students.”
“Having an outside expert who can objectively see our strengths and weaknesses is very helpful. Edge then provided a security program review report that highlighted our strengths and vulnerabilities and suggested the priorities we should focus on to help improve our position and our agility in responding to potential incidents.”
– Alex Menard
As remote learning has increased due to the pandemic and classes have moved to a hybrid model, the District has had to quickly pivot to ensure parents and students are able to navigate the technology being used for instruction. “The increased time needed from our elementary building technology specialists to support parents and students at home has left less time to help teachers take advantage of new software tools or deepen their abilities within these tools,” explains Menard. At the same time, by providing access to technology, teachers during the pandemic have had to creatively develop new ways of teaching and the students, in turn, have adapted.
“With students being remote, some part time and others full time, teachers have had some heavy lifting in managing their classes. Thankfully, their dedication and team work is helping students learn, adapt, and cope.
The mental health impact on the entire community of students, teachers, administration, and parents has been recognized at all levels of the school district. The District is working hard to compassionately support its students mental health.
Improving Security Posture through Edge
One of New Providence’s strategic planning goals for the 20-21 school year included reviewing and enhancing the District’s cybersecurity risk management program. Through a partnership with Edge, New Providence has been taking advantage of the EdgePro Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) program to improve their IT and cybersecurity measures. “Having an outside expert who can objectively see our strengths and weaknesses is very helpful,” says Menard. “We began the process by meeting for several sessions to review our security policies, procedures, and systems. Edge then provided a security program review report that highlighted our strengths and vulnerabilities and suggested the priorities we should focus on to help improve our position and our agility in responding to potential incidents.”
The vCISO service is designed to help fill the gap in an organization by offering the leadership needed to boost security effectiveness and define optimum information security direction. By supplementing an organization’s IT team with an outside resource, they can balance information security, risk, and general business challenges—without the need to hire a full-time resource. “We have been very pleased with the vCISO program and the collaboration with Jeremy Livingston, Edge’s former Associate Vice President for Security Solutions Development and Chief Information Security Officer, and currently Edge’s Dr. Dawn Dunkerley,” shares Menard. “They are helping us further develop our strategy and tactics in the cybersecurity arena. I encourage school districts to review their security posture with IT security experts to gather a fresh perspective.”
Sharing Insights and Experiences
Over the past two decades, Menard has witnessed many big changes and remembers a time when classrooms did not have Internet access and teachers used paper-based grade books. “In 2011, we had less than one hundred iPads, now we have over 2,800,” recalls Menard. “Today, both teachers and students have email and use a wide variety of technology tools. I look forward to seeing how technology can further drive engagement in the classroom and efficiency in the business operations of the District. As we move forward, I believe networking with other educational communities and technology leaders will continue to be imperative. This past year has shown the significance of the motto, “Stronger Together,” and being able to call upon each other to discuss our similar challenges or share our experiences has been vitally important. Through collaboration, we can continue to proactively drive digital transformation in the classroom, address the educational needs of our students, and ensure our teachers have the innovative tools they need to be successful.”
Looking for a trusted partner to help create actionable information security strategies for your organization? Learn more about EdgePro vCISO services at njedge.net/solutions-overview/digital-transformation.