The Whole School Is a Hot Spot

Park City Prep, an inner-city charter school serving low-income and minority students, had antiquated technology that worked poorly when it worked at all. CMIT Solutions of Central Fairfield County turned it into a model campus for mobility.

These days, thanks in large part to CMIT Solutions, it’s common to see students at Park City Prep in Bridgeport, Conn., hunched over their iPads and MacBooks just about anywhere on school grounds.

It’s an amazing sight to behold. Mainly because Park City Prep is a state-funded charter school specifically designed to teach math, science and technology to students from one of Connecticut’s lowest- performing school systems. These are, as Park City Prep’s founder and executive director Bruce Ravage notes, kids who tend not to have access to a computer or the Internet except at school.

A couple of years ago, what technology Park City Prep had was worn down, unreliable and stationary, with about 100 outdated desktops handcuffing students to a cramped computer lab.

“The system was constantly going down. Almost anything that could go wrong did go wrong,” said Bruce Ravage. “We couldn’t get through the day utilizing our technology. It was really a nightmare.”

Transforming a school’s capabilities

In 2010, needing help, Ravage reached out to an IT consultant he knew, Angelo Roberti. Ravage trusted Roberti and hired Avi Davidovich, President of CMIT Solutions of Central Fairfield County, to overhaul the school’s technology platform, a project the company undertook and finished last summer.

The overhaul essentially dragged Park City Prep’s technology system out of the 1990s. CMIT installed a new operating system, reconfigured the network and built an infrastructure that would allow Park City Prep’s Windows-based servers to work seamlessly with the new Apple hardware. Roberti and his crew set up CMIT’s around-the-clock Marathon monitoring system and its Guardian remote backup and disaster recovery service.

Just as important, they WiFi-enabled the entire school, which occupies part of an old industrial building in a rough part of Bridgeport. The new system allows students, faculty and administrators to jump on the Internet wherever and whenever they need to, using the 150 iPads and 50 Apple laptops the state bought for Park City Prep once the new system was in place. “The whole school is a hot spot,” Davidovich said. “We have the knowledge and know-how to take the project from beginning to end and make the system work — and make it work for a great cause, education.”

Park City Prep’s student body of about 250 consists primarily of minority students, who suffer from what educators refer to as an “achievement gap” in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) compared to their non-minority counterparts in Connecticut public schools.

Ravage founded Park City Prep in 2006, and the state funded it in an attempt to close the gap. But the woefully insufficient technology meant the school had trouble fulfilling its own mission. Since CMIT’s overhaul, that’s no longer a problem.

‘Reliable service that gets the job done’

“Before, somebody screaming ‘I can’t use my email!’ was a daily occurrence, and now it’s almost never — and when something does go wrong, it’s because one of our kids pulled out a cord or something, not anything CMIT did,” Ravage said.

“With CMIT Solutions, we have a reliable outfit we can call in case there’s a problem. They’re very responsive. Avi takes a great deal of pride in what he does and really wants the work he does to be the best it can be. On the rare occasions we do have to call, he always has a plan for how to address the issue. We’ve found them to be very competent and professional.”

The WiFi network allows Park City Prep’s teachers to use lessons, educational software and creative approaches to traditional learning they couldn’t dream of before.

“Our teachers really count on being able to use up-to-date technology in the classroom. It’s not just done as a novelty anymore. It’s a daily occurrence. To operate without it would be like saying you want your students to write an essay, but there are no pens or pencils,” Ravage said. “Our staff is clearly happier than before. There’s no way they couldn’t be. They’re very pleased to have reliable service that gets the job done.”

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