By GAIL LOWE
WAKEFIELD — Jeff Weiner, technology director for Wakefield’s schools, went before the School Committee last Tuesday to update members on technology issues, the challenges facing the School Department and what is being done to address them.
Three areas in Wakefield schools were recently monitored to determine what has been causing slowed speeds over the schools’ network configuration. Bandwidth is not a problem, Weiner said, but the number of devices, including computers, printers and projectors, is.
In a letter to school board members dated Friday, Nov. 7, Weiner wrote that the three areas being monitored were Internet bandwidth, wireless connections and the Internal network infrastructure.
“After much investigation, we’ve determined that we have plenty of bandwidth to the Internet for now and the problem is not specifically with the wireless network,” he said, “but there are far too many devices on one large network segment and this needs to be broken down into smaller segments.”
Weiner said that on Thursday, Oct. 30, a full-day network engineering meeting was held and those attending were confident that the issues could be resolved through segmenting the network and reconfiguring the wireless in order to break up some of the network traffic.
During the meeting, new wireless access policies for all schools, with input from teachers, were established and it was determined which devices belong on network segments of their own to be wireless access points, teacher devices and printers, student devices, projectors, the IPV (In Pipe-line Vehicle) system at the Galvin and security cameras, also at the Galvin.
“We need to develop new profiles for wireless authentication using private and pre-shared keys, giving us the ability to limit the number of devices per person on the network as well as track what devices may be causing problems and identify who the device belongs to,” said Weiner.
A bandwidth limited segment for a guest network will also be created.
“We also determined that we need to purchase additional public IP addresses required for network address translation between the internal network and the public Internet,” said Weiner.
Weiner said that he sought a proposal from Whalley Computers, the company that provided technology and wireless for the Galvin building project but decided that based on the scope of the project and Whalley’s cost estimate, that the school IT department will partner with the town IT department to complete network segmentation in a way that limits the negative impact on teaching and learning.
The project will be handled after school hours and over weekends as much as possible, said Weiner.
“In addition to segmenting the data network, we will be working with our Internet services reseller to expand the number of public IP addresses currently shared by clients on our private network to access the Internet through our firewall.
The plan will greatly reduce the amount of traffic at each school location, said Weiner, adding that internet “failover” between schools will be preserved.
“While we determine the scope and actual timeline of the project, we’ve made some immediate minor changes on the wireless network and on our firewall that seem to have significantly helped overall,” he said. “We will continue to make minor changes as we are able.”
The school board approved Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stephn K. Zrike’s goals for the year, including a focus on student learning, professional growth and ownership and engagement of the district’s instructional strategy with critical stakeholders.
A gift from the Donald E. Garrant Foundation, Inc. for $3,094 has been approved by school board members. The money will be used to purchase 30 textbooks and four instructor manuals to support the banking class at the high school as well as classes covering Advanced Placement economics, principles of business and personal finance. The anticipated enrollment is more than 100 students.
The approval of union clerical job descriptions was tabled until a future meeting. Positions include junior account clerk/secretary, payroll clerk, senior accounting clerk, senior secretary at the high school, middle school secretary to the principal, elementary school secretary, SPED secretary, middle school secretary, athletics department secretary, high school secretary, guidance secretary, SPED administrative assistant and middle school secretary.