Person of the Week
Randel Osborne Leads EHPS Tech Department through Many Changes
Randel Osborne has been the technology director for East Haven Public Schools for the past 26 years. (Photo courtesy of Randel Osborne )
The technology department for East Haven Public Schools includes Randel Osborne, Jeremiah Stewart, Ben Zalewski, Carmen Ruotolo, Ilya Shavrov, Robert Becker, and Taylor Auger. (Photo courtesy of Randel Osborne )
As the technology director for East Haven Public Schools, Randel Osborne has seen many changes throughout his 26 years with the district. When he first started, he focused on how to integrate technology and computers into the classroom.
“It was a very different time relative to technology and education,” says Randel. “The use of the technology wasn’t a novel idea, but it wasn’t on the forefront like it is now. The last six months has taken it to a whole new level. We couldn’t imagine in January that we’d be doing what we’re doing now. It’s been an exponential curve in the last few months.”
Luckily, Randel’s initial position from 26 years ago has evolved into a full technology services department that also includes Jeremiah Stewart, Ben Zalewski, Carmen Ruotolo, Ilya Shavrov, Robert Becker, and Taylor Auger. The department is not only responsible for academic computing and trouble-shooting issues that come with that, but systems for HVAC, telephones, and refrigeration as well.
Prior to COVID, Randel and his team had built a “very substantial infrastructure to connect students and staff to the Internet” and had equipped every students in grades 3 to 12 with a Chromebook. In March, the district not only had to make sure that the K to 2 students had a device, but that all students could connect from home.
“We had a big push to hand out devices on a wintry day in March and then ensuring that those students and their parent and guardians had success in logging on. Our customer base expanded considerably,” says Randel. “We’d been planning for what it would take for distance learning for a long time, but I don’t think anyone planned on doing an implementation in two weeks. I’m not saying it was perfect and we continue to refine it every day, but I like to think we’re doing a good job with the resources we have. It takes a village.”
Randel is not only thankful for the members of his department, but he notes that they have worked closely with the administration and other departments. Since March, Randel has seen a big increase in demand for help with technology and he sees himself in the customer service business. Though his days have become busier, Randel enjoys the challenges of his job and the people he works with.
“We are here to support students, teachers, faculty, parents, and guardians—that’s what we do,” says Randel. “I have some absolutely wonderful people I work with every day who are smart and funny and take great satisfaction in getting things done and solving big problems.”
Randel and his team face range of challenges each day from forgotten passwords and lost chargers to developing and implementing new systems and improving Internet connections. Obtaining new equipment has also been a challenge as there is now a great demand for items such as webcams and bluetooth headsets. They are also troubleshooting issues that stem from the nationwide increase in use of technology like Zoom and Google Classroom.
Randel, who lives in Essex, enjoys biking and competitive sailing. Over the years, he has competed in many races, including Block Island Race Week and the Black Dog Dash on Martha’s Vineyard. This summer, though, COVID forced competitive sailing to take a hiatus, which worked out as Randel and his department were busy preparing for East Haven students to return to school full-time.
“The good news is that we had a lot of concentrated time to building new systems and ensuring systems are robust enough to do what they need to do, but there are always new problems to solve,” says Randel. “Zoom has gone from tiny company to juggernaut overnight and Google Classroom is a wonderful service, but I don’t think they ever anticipated this many users at the same time, so there have been some issues.”
Since the students returned to school full-time, Randel has enjoyed seeing them in the buildings. The technology department is housed at East Haven High School, but they visit the schools throughout the district every day.
“We all had our concerns about how well this return to school was going to work, but the students’ responsibility with masks, social distancing, and following the rules has been exemplary,” says Randel. “In-person school is happening, but it’s happening responsibly. It’s nice to see more people in the building.”
East Haven also has about 30 percent of students who opted in to virtual learning, which adds another facet to Randel’s job. He and his department are also there to support students learning from home, along with their guardians.
In addition to being the technology director, Randel enjoys working with students when he has the opportunity. He has served as a mentor for students’ Capstone projects on a number of occasions, helping students with projects in computer numeric control (CNC), electronic music, and coding.
“CNC is designing in 3D and using a machine to cut that design out of wood. It’s a fine balance between science and that arts, which is my passion,” says Randel, who plays piano and composes electronic music (search Randel Osborne on iTunes). “I enjoy working with the students.”
Though there are many challenges and new problems to solve each day, Randel enjoys his job and providing service to his customers, whether it’s the district, staff, students, or guardians.
“I’m optimistic about the future and I’m optimistic about our kids, educators, and our ability to overcome this health crisis and provide great teaching and learning,” says Randel. “We’re seeing it happen. It’s easy to get sucked into this dark place and I’m not going to let that happen to us. If you have an issue, contact us, stay optimistic, be patient, and know we’re working as best we can to solve problems.
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .