The Richard Yanni Story Part IV – My Second Stint In New Rochelle Schools from 2001-2007

Written By: Deprecated User

This article is the fourth in a seven-part series on my experience as an educator in the City School District of New Rochelle where I worked for 8 1/2 years. RichardYanni headshotAfter twenty years working in Colorado and traveling the world, I returned to New York to be closer to ailing family members. Once back, I began a second stint as a teacher at New Rochelle High School where I worked hard to transform a board-level, three year, architectural design program into a fully computerized and networked facility and related e-learning curriculum. Students not only learned architectural CAD, but also incorporated walk-through of residential and commercial designs into multimedia presentations that became part of their portfolios. Senior students participating in college interviews at prestigious architectural universities were told by Department Chairs that their work equaled the assignments being given to the universities’ second-year students. I was hired for a second time by the District after I stopped by New Rochelle High School for a visit with old friends and to see if there might be any opportunities for someone with my background. I met with then-House 2 Principal Fred Todora, formerly a vocational printing teacher in a room on the other side of my machine shop when I taught at the high school from 1977 to 1980. We had become good friends and colleagues and remained so until his passing earlier this year. Fred asked me what I knew about computers, CAD, and teaching with technology. I answered honestly and told him that during my 21 year hiatus from New Rochelle, I had learned quite a bit about computer systems, servers, networks, hardware, software, staff development and programmable logic controllers (PLCs) in both business and educational settings. My background included teaching secondary & graduate students computer courses, using computer technology in my applied physics curricula, setting up computer labs/servers/local area networks and wide area networks/staff development/ hardware & software selection, installation, updating, and troubleshooting, and my MA Degree was in Curriculum & Instruction-Educational Technology. I had been awarded the highest academic honors by the unanimous vote of the Graduate Faculty of Education at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. As a result, I was appointed to an Honorary Professorship where I taught graduate education students for several years. Letter of Recommendation, University of Colorado, Prof. Scott Switzer Fred immediately marched me down the hall to meet then-Principal Donald Baughman. “Don, I’ve got your man for you for the transition of the Architectural Design program from a board drafting program, to a fully modern computer aided design curriculum.” Baughman asked me one simple question, “Do you know anything about computers?” I filled him in on my background, gave him a copy of my resume, a technical capabilities sheet, and several letters of reference. When he learned about my skills in software and hardware troubleshooting, he said in front of Fred: “This is great, as long as you don’t have to rely on those guys from BOCES, you’re going to be successful! Because, they’re worthless and undependable. You will need to be self-sufficient.” I assured him that I could definitely be self-sufficient in all of areas necessary to establish and maintain a new networked lab, specify hardware and software, ensure the safety of students and develop a content-rich curriculum. I soon met with the Margaret Pecunia, Director of Personnel, accompanied by Baughman, who presented my credentials to her. After an interview, she turned to Baughman and said, “My goodness, he is remarkably well prepared, qualified, and credentialed.” LindaKellyI next met with Superintendent Linda Kelly. She greeted me warmly and expressed her happiness to see me back working at New Rochelle High School. I was genuinely pleased to see Linda again too, and congratulated her on her considerable success. My hiring took place that afternoon, subject of course to Board Approval that was obtained soon after. Before that school year ended I requested permission to schedule an appointment with the outgoing teacher of ten years who had taught three levels of Architectural Board Drafting. This permission was given by Mr. Baughman. When I met with the teacher, I asked for a copy of the curricula from the last ten years. The teacher took me into the Technology Department office and took out a shabby manila folder that contained three yellow ruled pages filled out on one side only and said, “Here it is, years 1, 2, and 3.” I was appalled but said nothing. The teacher took me into the drafting room filled with over-sized drafting tables and cushioned ‘studio chairs’. The type of chair that adjust to height, has a circular chrome ring for a foot rest, a padded seat, and an adjustable padded back rest. The majority of the chair cushions and seat backs had been sliced open with razor knives and covered over with black masking tape. She had insisted that the students construct scale model, foam core buildings with embellishments borrowed from the ‘train board’ hobbyists: trees, bushes, and so on. To accomplish this she dispensed X-Acto knives among the class members, and they repaid her trust by slicing up the chair cushions and seat backs. In the process of “delivering this curriculum” the students had destroyed the lab: chairs cut up, seat backs sliced, and drafting board ‘self-repairing’ skins irreparably damaged. It was 1977 all over again: a destroyed lab, and Richard Yanni coming in to make it all better, quietly and without fanfare. I explained to the outgoing teacher what my assignment was, in broad strokes, and asked if she would put computers into her classroom to teach architectural CAD. “I would never trust these animals with computer systems,” she said. Over the summer preceding my actual start date, I helped the District and BOCES specify the computer systems, monitors, networking (LAN), router, software, plotter, computer tables and task chairs, and everything else necessary for the successful conversion of the board drafting room to a modern architectural CAD curriculum. My considerable time and expertise over several months was a pro bono investment in my new position. At the mid-year point of my first year back at New Rochelle High School in early 2002, DELL computer systems, boxed from the factory, suddenly appeared stacked up in the main hallway parallel to the atrium area for my room and the Technology Department office. Large stacks of DELL CPUs, accessory and monitor boxes were simply deposited without any notice, without inventory, without security. Tens of thousands of dollars of high tech equipment just left in the main hallway. A few days later, a semi-truck pulled into the ‘blind canyon’ parking area near my classroom. The truck was loaded with the computer tables for the lab. I quickly learned that no arrangements had been made to off-load the truck. The driver advised me that unless the truck was unloaded in the next 20 minutes he would return to Texas with the load. Several students came to my aid as I worked to unloaded the truck myself. We then moved every board drafting table and chair out into the hallway to clear the room while we assembled the tables. The students worked with me as we opened all of the boxes for the computer tables and assembled them, before moving onto the task chairs and then then DELL computers and accessory boxes. We disposed of all of the boxes in the dumpsters at the entrance to the parking area. No one from B&G or BOCES arrived that day. Then my students and I set up all 21 computer systems in what was now the new architectural design computer lab, and began installing the operating system, utilities, and security software programs on each computer system. Each time-consuming step was necessary for the start-up of the Architectural CAD curriculum in the computer lab at New Rochelle High School. The network wiring and software configuration was going to be a more specialized and dedicated project, and BOCES could not predict when they might be able to get to it. Scheduling was never BOCES forte. So, I asked for student volunteers who would be willing to donate their time, along with my donated time, from roughly 5 hours to work with me to network the lab one evening. As a reward, I used my own personal funds to purchase pizza and soft drinks from the location of their choice. Napoleon accurately stated, “An army marches on its stomach!” And for growing high school students’ good food is a primary motivator. On the appointed evening, 12 students showed up, and we completed the networking of the lab ahead of schedule as we enjoyed premium, old world style pizza from a local restaurant. There was no help from BOCES, no assistance from Burt Blumkin, the supposed Novell and computer science guru in the building; we were on our own. Being proactive as an educator-leader is the answer to lethargy and oppositional behavior. It is important for the record to note that I was acting with the full authority and confidence of Superintendent Linda E. Kelly, New Rochelle High School Principal Donald Baughman and Mathematics and Technology Department Chairperson Ronald Morris. I had the full District and Legal authorizations necessary and all of the professional credentials to assume the role and responsibilities as the Network Administrator for the secured Windows-based LAN. This included acting as the computer lab manager, and teacher of the architectural CAD curriculums. It is why I was hired. Specific authorizations and duties included, but were not limited to: networking the lab, configuring the router, connecting to the Internet, loading licensed software, installing programs and utilities, downloading and installing software updates directly from publishers, installing virus checking software, making changes to the user permissions on machines, accessing the hard drives, opening CPUs to add larger capacity hard drives and video cards, in short, to do whatever made sense from an experienced system administrator’s standpoint to do, be it hardware or software, in order to ensure the success of the program, the safety of the students, and future growth and success of the curriculum. And that level of authority as the System Administrator for the Architectural Design Computer Lab and its Local Area Network (LAN) in the room was never withdrawn during my entire 5 ½ year, second-round tenure with the District. I was to ensure, in loco parentis, the success of the students, the ethical delivery of a high-standards curricula, and safe, legal, successful and efficient operation of the computer lab and ensure the security of its inventory; that is what I did with outstanding efficacy. Architectural Design 2 My Architectural Design 1-3 students did amazingly professional work. Preparing complete sets of ‘Size D’ Architectural Plan sets replete with a high resolution printed perspective shot of their house set against real-life back drops taken from royalty-free and public domain digital stock photography. The CAD program allowed houses to be positioned ‘in situ’ with stunning backdrops, 3-D images of the balloon framing, and then all of the other drawings that one would expect to see in a complete architectural presentation of a building. They were beautiful, professionally bound plan sets—all possible, because I had set up the Windows-based LAN to work safely with the Internet, and with a high speed, high resolution H-P plotter. I was very proud of the hard work, task persistence, problem-solving and artistic skills that my students displayed through their drawing sets. Architectural Design 1 PowerPoint was another emphasis of mine as I had the students to capture ‘live walkthroughs’ (3-D movies) of their houses as permitted by the architectural software program, and embed them into artfully done PowerPoint, self-running slide presentations with transitions and theme music (classical, light jazz, new age, something melodic without lyrics and in the background that enhanced the presentation of the plans). The goal, achieved by all of the students, was to create a hard copy portfolio accompanied by a PowerPoint DVD digital portfolio for presentation to a college advisor and/or prospective employer. In one of many cases, a student of mine went for a college visit and interview with the Chairperson of the Architecture Department at the University of Arizona—a nationally prestigious program. The Architectural Department Chairperson was astonished when he reviewed the New Rochelle High School student’s bound, complete, high resolution, size D plan set and accompanying PowerPoint, self-running architectural walkthrough and said, “You are doing work at your high school that we do not accomplish here until an architectural student is in the second year of their major!” In 2003, I was selected to serve a two-year term as a chairperson for the Global Online Learning Awards by the International Society for Technology in Education [ISTE]. I was selected for this prestigious position for my work pioneering uses of virtual classrooms to provide innovative learning opportunities for students in Grades K-20. ISTELogoISTE, based in Eugene, Oregon, is the leading organization for educational technology professionals with a national and international network of more than 85,000 teachers, teacher educators, administrators, and key decision makers in over 44 countries. ISTE-SIGTEL Press Release-Richard Yanni So, my students and I enjoyed several years (three to be exact) of smooth operating conditions, high quality work output, and curriculum-based achievement on our humble, 21-station Windows-based local area Windows network (LAN). The school’s notorious Novell-based network with its multitudes of problems, security breaches and shortcomings did not affect us, and we had no access to the Novell Network from our computer lab or office. We were a harmonious, self-contained workgroup churning out professional architectural and digital portfolios that students took great pride in, and their parents and professional community members could not believe were being produced at the high school level. Those evaluations included professional architectural firms in the local and NY metro areas. One close ally and mentor to our program was through a student Sadye Nazario, an excellent student in the New Rochelle High School Architectural Design Program whose mother was an architect with Warshauer-Melussi-Warshauer in White Plains. I was chatting with Ron Morris and Larry Green, a colleague in the New Rochelle High School Technology Department, before the start of class, as the 2004-2005 school year began. As we talked about summer experiences and what we had planned for the upcoming school year, we were rudely interrupted by a brusque, aggressive woman unknown to the three of us. This woman declared “I am ‘Head of the Technology Department’ and stood there looking at us. She offered no name, no appropriate cordial greetings, no smiles or professional courtesy — just the title, no name. It was quickly apparent that this was some sort of bizarre ‘power and control’ moment for her. The three of us standing there had no idea what to make of her. It was my first encounter with Christine Coleman. ColemanPetroneOrganisciak NEXT: The Richard Yanni Story Part V – The Wrath of the Borg (2005-2007)