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For the past 19 years, Martha Butterworth has worked with the technology department for North Haven Public Schools, starting as an aide in the computer lab and now is a senior technician and the interim assistant director of technology. (Photo courtesy of Martha Butterworth )
Martha Butterworth has seen the North Haven Public Schools Technology Department through many changes over the nearly two decades she has worked with the schools. Though there have been many changes since she was hired in 2001, some of the busiest and most challenging times have come since the onset of COVID-19 in March.
“It’s been a little bit of a blur,” says Martha, who lives in town with her husband. “Since March 12, when we were hearing about possible closings, we started some preparations. We created district-wide Google Classrooms to help the teachers. It’s wasn’t ideal from a learning standpoint, but we did what we could to get everybody access to a teacher.”
Students were connected with grade level Google Classrooms and were taught by teams of teachers. While all of the students were assigned to classrooms, Martha and her department still faced technological challenges such as ensuring all families were able to connect and students were being engaged.
In addition to trouble-shooting, the Technology Department also worked with teachers on new technology and made hardware and software improvements to the system. Throughout the summer and heading into the 2020-’21 school year, Martha and the team continued to add tools and provide support.
“We want to support the teachers. It’s been very rewarding for us, even if we fail sometimes,” says Martha, whose son graduated from North Haven High School where he played lacrosse. “We’ve got more software, more devices, and more teachers so we can have in-house substitutes.”
Despite adding “more of everything” and the pressure that was put on the Technology Department by the pandemic, Martha enjoys her job. She extends a lot of credit to the teachers, staff, administration, and her co-workers. This summer there was a push to get every student a district-issued device and Sal Rizzo, director of dining services, oversaw the handout throughout the summer.
“Sal was amazing,” says Martha. “We kept going to raid the elementary schools, labeling them, and bringing them to Sal and his coworker to hand out. It was a huge job.”
The technology department includes Jenn Kozniewski (director of educational and informational technology and district COVID liaison), Chris Bassett (network administrator), Lisa Gallipoli (data specialist), Jessie Chelmu (technology integration coach), Dan Lazar (Tier 2 technician/interim senior technician), and Linda Kovach (technician/interim Tier 2 technician), along with computer technicians Tutti Kusmit, Carissa Somody, James Palm, Michael Wulff, and Matt Bulan.
“Our department is a really happy place to work. We love our boss because she is so supportive and so are the administrators—I can’t say enough about how well we work together,” says Martha. “Between us, we have a good diversity of skills—some are complete nerds who really know the hardware and log files, others who want to be the ones doing one-on-one Google Meets for professional development, and a technology integration coach who is putting together help documents and videos to be distributed to staff and students.”
Kozniewski came to the district in recent years and Martha has seen her implement great changes, including consolidating the technology staff from the different schools into one department. She also instituted a ticket system so staff, students, and parents could get help with technical problems.
Martha has seen the number of help tickets rise dramatically since the onset of COVID. She noted that from September 2018 to September 2019, there were 4,700 tickets, jumping to 8,100 for the next school year, which included the shutdown. In September 2020, her department topped 2,400 tickets.
“We’re a much more sophisticated department now and that’s a reflection of the person who took over,” says Martha. “Jenn is just phenomenally talented, has the right vision, and she knows an amazing amount of things. With her tapped as the district’s COVID liaison, she has taken on responsibility for many of the policies and changes adopted by the district, which means that, during the busiest time we’ve ever seen, the rest of us in the department have stepped up to fulfill as much of her technology role as we can.”
Looking at her job now, Martha sees a big difference from where she started as a computer lab aide in 2001. She began her career with North Haven Public Schools as a paraprofessional and is now a senior technician and the interim assistant director of technology.
“There was so little equipment then, nobody used email, and the state testing was done on paper,” says Martha. “Our job was to support the students in the computer lab. We weren’t IT professionals at all.”
As in every other facet of life and nearly every other job, Martha and her coworkers have had to adjust how they work. While she admits it is more chaotic now and the department has its highest ticket count ever, she and her department are doing their best to problem solve and help the school community.
“We’re trying to do our best to prioritize and stay with most important stuff first. It is more stressful, but we know we’re supported,” says Martha. “It’s very satisfying to be able to help the people we know who are going through so much right now.
“There are some complications now for entire world of technology,” she notes. “You can’t get devices and other items, but amid the complications, we’re trying to keep a focus on what’s most important.”
For tech help, email email@example.com. Students and families can access help videos on youtube.com by searching “NHPS STUDENT EDTECH.” More information can be found under the COVID Hub on www.northhavenschools.org.
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .