Expensive video system for Portsmouth Schools used once in 3 years

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by David Alan

WVEC.com

Posted on February 3, 2011 at 7:38 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 17 at 2:15 PM

PORTSMOUTH -- Portsmouth Public Schools officials say their investment in technology is part of building for the future and things like virtual classrooms.

But a $350,000 video distribution system, bought in 2008, has only been used once and until 13News started asking questions, no training on the VBrick system had been given to employees.

VBrick, among many things, can live video stream current events into schools, show student broadcasts and train teachers. It's a sophisticated learning tool for a school system with the state's poorest graduation rate.

It’s first – and only use to date – was for President Barack Obama's back-to-school speech to students in September 2009. "To my knowledge, that's the only time we've really run it," said Superintendent Dr. David Stuckwisch.

Stuckwisch said the VBrick system hasn't been used more because no one's asking to use it.

A whistle blower says there’s a reason for that.

"Nobody has been trained on it, but nobody's offering training on it," a school employee said. "An educational tool of this magnitude that's not being used, it's really a shame."

Stuckwisch said the school system lost a position in IT, which is why the technology isn't up and running yet and why staff isn’t up to speed on how to use it.

"They assure me in I-T this thing is not ready yet," Stuckwisch said.

The school system's I-T director, Dean Schlaepher, said it is ready – that VBrick was completely installed ten months ago.

VBrick officials, the manufacturer of the video system that Portsmouth School officials call 'futuristic thinking,' said it shouldn’t have taken more than a month to install and training should take no more than a day per school.

"So it's a good investment, this was not a boondoggle or anything," Stuckwisch insisted. "There is nothing that we've done that I would go back and do over again. We're moving in the right direction."

Portsmouth School Board Chairman James Bridgeford believes the system is good for the school system and not, as he said, "any misappropriation of funds."

As for training, it began a week after 13News began asking questions.

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