Schools feel impact of technology upgrades | Coalfield Progress

Schools feel impact of technology upgrades | Coalfield Progress

WISE — Whether software or hardware, technology touches every level of operations in Wise County schools and all feel the effect of advancements as well.

Technology Director Scott Kiser Monday gave Wise County School Board a snapshot of upgrades system-wide, some of the positive reactions and implications as well as the challenges faced routinely by the division’s technology team.

When they deployed a single login application that ended what was sometimes a time-consuming issue for teachers, Kiser told them, he was approached with gratitude about the change. One teacher, he related, said, “so, you’re the one I need to hug for making this happen.”

“Technology is a tool. We don’t want it to be a hindrance,” Kiser said.

There’s not a department here that doesn’t rely on technology, he continued, from food services, where a complete system upgrade included touch screens and pin pads on the food line, to new smart panels, akin to interactive televisions, in almost every general education classroom in kindergarten through eighth grade. The last five at Union Primary School are scheduled for installation.

Technology also reaches outside the classroom to parents. They’ve had great response to this year’s launching of online registration for new and transferring students, Kiser told the board, as well as digitizing the paperwork packets that typically would be sent home to parents at the beginning of the school year. It saved parents a lot of time, he noted.

The division has Chromebooks in the hands of every student in grades 9-12 and sets of Chromebooks that remain in classrooms in grades 2 through 8.

In Pre-K through first grade, Kiser said, they listened to teachers and got iPads for students. Chromebooks were a little much for the littlest ones, Kiser said. Teachers got them, too, he said, and attended advance training this summer.

“I can’t say enough about our teachers. They go the extra mile,” he said, telling the board about teacher response to the training day that meant interruption of their last free days of summer.

Only about five teachers couldn’t make it, he said, and all the others raved about the hands-on training, which included a representative from Apple.

Watching teachers sharing with one another during these activities was gratifying, Kiser said, noting that he has heard before from them about the need for having devices they can rely on and having access more than just a couple of times a week.

Kiser observed that “technology will never replace a teacher but a teacher with great technology, it’s amazing to watch that unfold in the classroom.”

Along with its other duties, he said, the technology department has had 1,200 iPads to get going.


Meanwhile, they also have completed camera system upgrades. Kiser said they hope to be reimbursed through security grant funding for which they applied. District 2 member John Graham observed how impressed he was when he saw the principal’s monitoring setup at Central High School.

“I didn’t realize we had such a sophisticated camera system,” Graham said, adding it “blew my mind” when he saw all that the principal could do.

“It’s the best tool I’ve seen for safety,” he continued, asking Kiser what it would cost for camera installations countywide in all classrooms.

Kiser estimated the cost at about $1 million.

Kiser said the division has been applying security grant funding — around three-quarters of a million dollars — toward security system upgrades.

An upgrade last year at L.F. Addington Middle School, he noted, cost right at $50,000.

One of the features in the upgrades allows schools to give access to the cameras to the Wise County Sheriff’s Office, Kiser said. They aren’t asking the department to monitor them, he noted, but providing access as needed, such as in the event of an intruder at a school. They serve as “eyes in the sky,” he said, adding that principals are appreciative.

Regarding new camera systems on school buses, Kiser said credit for those goes to Transportation Director Mark Giles. Among the advantages of that new system, he said, is the ability to blur out faces so the footage can be shown to others without invading the privacy of students who are not the subject of any particular inquiry.

Graham said students know cameras are on their buses and “that’s a deterrent itself.”

Among the security challenges the technology team faces are hackers, viruses, ransomware and identity theft.

“There’s a very serious side to the job we do,” Kiser said. “There are bad guys out there.”

Whether a school system, business or individuals, all are potential targets of sophisticated hackers who can get ahold of your entire system, he warned.

“These people are great at what they do,” Kiser said.

He related to the board that Smyth County schools had recently been compromised by hackers from Russia that got every file on their network from top to bottom, even jump drives.

Kiser described some of the ways the school division’s tech team deploys protection with security being at the forefront of everything they do. Their role is particularly important since the state is not going to put security specialists in play at every school, he noted.

“We do the best we can,” Kiser said. “If something happened . . . we can put our heads down on the pillow at night . . . we gave it everything we had to keep us protected, and then some.”


The Wise County school division has almost a dozen people on its technology team and they are the ones deserving credit for addressing daily and long-term needs.

“I wouldn’t want to fight that battle without those guys,” Technology Director Scott Kiser told Wise County School Board at its Oct. 7 meeting.

Reflective of the team’s performance, Kiser said, are statistics that show they typically respond to an issue in less than a day’s time.

The technology team includes Network Administrator Gary Potter; technicians Junior Patrick, Brian Lawson, Andy Mullins, Jason Wamsley and Kevin Hall; and Instructional Technology Resource Teachers Daniel Vanover, Jason Hicks, Jesse Roberts, Kevin Marcus and Josh Reynolds.

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