Sachem scores in LI-friendly ‘Smart Schools’ round

Smart moves: Albany has invested nearly $50 million in statewide school-tech upgrades through the latest funding round of the $2 billion Smart Schools Investment Plan.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

More than $12.5 million in school-technology upgrades are coming to Long Island schools through the latest funding round of Albany’s Smart Schools investment plan.

The Smart Schools Review Board on Monday approved nearly 100 projects designed to improve school security and “reimagine teaching and learning for the 21st century,” according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office – a chunky 13th funding round for the circa-2015, $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act.

The round budgets $49.8 million total for 96 statewide school-tech projects falling into one of three categories: School Connectivity, Classroom Technology and High-Tech Security. More than a quarter of that total will flow to Long Island, including an impressive $11.06 million stake for the Sachem Central School District.

Sachem’s total – split between School Connectivity ($6.7 million), Classroom Technology ($146,427) and High-Tech Security ($4.1 million) – nearly doubles the second-place haul ($6.4 million) spent on High-Tech Security in the City of Syracuse CSD, and doubles the $5.5 million investment in School Connectivity for the third-place City of Buffalo CSD.

For this round, the Smart Schools Review Board – including State Budget Director Robert Mujica, State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and State University of New York Chancellor Kristina Johnson – considered investment plans submitted by 90 statewide school districts and three special-education schools.

Robert Mujica: Safety first.

The round heavily favored High-Tech Security programs, with board members investing $29.9 million in security programs around the state. Also approved were $16.6 million in School Connectivity efforts and upwards of $3.2 million for Classroom Technology upgrades.

“We are protecting our children by supporting the installation of safety surveillance systems,” Mujica said Monday, adding the round would also serve to “[position] students for success in our 21st century economy by revolutionizing classrooms with connectivity and the technology it supports.”

Long Island school districts having their security, connectivity and classroom tech beefed up in the latest Smart Schools round include the Central Islip UFSD, which received $460,000 for High-Tech Security programs; the Manhasset UFSD, which snagged $57,312 for School Connectivity efforts; and the North Bellmore UFSD, which collected $219,970 total – $159,165 for School Connectivity and $60,805 for Classroom Technology upgrades.

Also scoring were the Rockville Centre UFSD, with $390,451 for High-Tech Security purposes, and the Roslyn UFSD, which will split $361,290 between School Connectivity ($196,375) and High-Tech Security ($164,915).

Two Long Island-based special-education schools also earned funding in the 13th Smart Schools round: United Cerebral Palsy of Nassau County’s Children’s Learning Center received $28,797 for Classroom Technology improvements, while the Maryhaven Center of Hope – part of Catholic Health Services of Long Island – will invest $26,208 in new classroom tech.

Trumpeting “needed opportunities” for students “to succeed and excel,” Johnson framed  the investments as a key component of Albany’s larger workforce-development strategy.

“These resources are a necessary asset for our state’s education system,” the SUNY chancellor added. “Our students will develop a more robust skillset before entering the workforce.”