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Vacca grant used to buy P.S. 14 hi-tech boards

It’s a whiteboard. It’s a computer monitor. It’s an Internet surfboard. Ms. Judith Baumeister’s new classroom gizmo is nothing if not versatile. Her second-graders love the Promethean board – an interactive, hi-tech teaching tool.

PS 14 boasts 26 Promethean boards, thanks to a $275,000 City Council grant Councilman James Vacca secured.

“We’re really grateful,” Jason Kovac, the school’s principal, said. “The boards are exciting and have raised our students’ interest in learning.”

A number of Bronx schools employ the interactive whiteboards, coupled with projectors and laptop computers. Students control the computers from the boards, using pens or fingers.

According to Kovac, PS 14’s teachers are enthusiastically developing Internet-aided lessons and the school’s students are finding the Promethean boards fun.

“The interactive whiteboard has been a wonderful addition to our classroom,” Baumeister said. “It’s an excellent resource that can be used across the curriculum. Hesitant students come out of their shells with it.”

Vacca, who asked the council for money to retrofit PS 14 in 2007, visited Baumeister’s second graders Wednesday, December 3. PS 14 doesn’t benefit from Title One – the federal clause that funds low-income schools – but suffers budget cuts all the same.

“This school couldn’t have afforded the whiteboards without Jimmy arranging for a grant,” former PS 14 principal A. Robert Guzzio said. “Investments like this really help.”

Kovac presented Vacca with a plaque that will hang at the school’s entrance and a PS 15 shirt. Baumeister’s students crafted mini interactive whiteboards out of popsicle sticks and construction paper for the ribbon cutting.

“I’m so proud to be able to provide the students at PS 14 with the cutting-edge technology they need to succeed in the 21st century,” Vacca said. “I’m excited to see what the students and teachers are capable of achieving with this equipment.”

Vacca’s grant bought the school 17 stationary and nine portable Promethean boards, and a super-projector for the auditorium. Every second, third, fourth and fifth grade classroom will boast a stationary board.

Many educators, including Kovac, like how the interactive whiteboards appeal to visual learners. Critics have dismissed the boards as gimmicky, arguing that student participation quickly fades. Few teachers receive Promethean board training ahead of time.

PS 14 is located at 3041 Bruckner Boulevard, just past the Throggs Neck Expressway. Roughly 550 students attend the school.

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