In March 2010, the Hudson Reporter noted that the Hoboken Board of Education had approved the purchase of 250 laptops for seventh and eighth graders using money from the 2009 federal stimulus law. At the time, board member Maureen Sullivan spoke out against the program, warning of “unexpected costs and the potential to overburden the district tech staff.”
Sullivan’s fears unfortunately came true. Jerry Crocamo, a computer network engineer at HJSHS, told WNYC that his staff could not handle the amount of repairs required to keep the laptops up and running.
“We bought laptops that had reinforced hard-shell cases so that we could try to offset some of the damage these kids were going to do,” said Crocamo. “I was pretty impressed with some of the damage they did anyway. Some of the laptops would come back to us completely destroyed.”
Some laptops were also stolen or lost, forcing the tech support staff to file police reports and testify in court.
With firewalls, security safeguards, and anti-theft software installed, some laptops had trouble actually running educational software. Better replacement laptops would have cost twice as much, according to outgoing superintendent Mark Toback.
Toback said teachers should have been given more guidance in how to use the computers in a classroom setting. “We had the money to buy them, but maybe not the best implementation,” he told WNYC. “It became unsustainable.”
The school board must approve disposing of the laptops. They meet next on Aug. 19.