Getting out the word on the web

Photos by Ron Leir IT contractor Richard Heywood guides students with posting images and text on school website.

Photos by Ron Leir
IT contractor Richard Heywood guides students with posting images and text
on school website.

Every Thursday at 3 p.m. sharp, a news team will be reporting to the media center at the East Newark Public School.

They’ll be busy cobbling together several stories and photos deemed worthy for publication, then they’ll gather around a computer screen to design the layout and upload the information onto the school website for viewers to check out.

Sounds like a lot of work – for which they will receive no pay – but the team seems up to the challenge.

There are only five members of the team and they’re still novices at what they do but then what would you expect from elementary school students?

They are members of the newly-formed East Newark Public School Website Club who are volunteering their time to keep the community at large updated on their school’s activities.

School Superintendent/Principal Patrick Martin credited David Eichenholtz, hired as the new part-time school business administrator in January, as the brainchild behind the idea.

Eichenholtz, a former assistant principal, “wants to get more connected with the students in addition to handling the business end of our school operation. ‘Dr. E’ likes to work with websites and we thought it would be a natural thing to have him spearhead a club for students that would have them post photos and articles … on the school’s website,” Martin said.

Working in tandem with Eichenholtz in this endeavor are Richard Heywood of Peggnet Computers, the school IT contractor, and Victoria Chalk, an instructor in K to 8 technology, basic skills language arts and Gifted & Talented.

The student crew consists of fifth-grader Brayhan Carrasco, sixth-graders Antony Bazurto and Leanna Diaz and eighth-graders Monica Arce and Gustavo Diniz.

“We’ve been working with Peggnet to re-establish our website connection,” Eichenholtz said, “and we’ve updated our school calendar and staff. But now it comes down to cleaning out some of the news postings that are outdated and replacing that with what’s going on now.

“It’s a nice opportunity for the kids to see how the system works and once we’re up and running, we’ll get the kids involved and maybe connect to some game links and quizzes, like Dr. Martin’s ‘Word of the Day’ contest,” he added.

It makes sense for the students to recommend topics for inclusion on the school’s website, Eichenholtz said, “since they’ll be more conscious of whatever’s going on in the school.” Naturally, there will be discretionary staff oversight into what material goes up on the site, he added.

For those in the know about computer technology, the students will be using a system known as “Joomla Open Source Web Editor,” according to Heywood.

As the half-hour introductory instructional session neared the end last Thursday, Eichenholtz reminded the students to “think about the things you want to put up on the site,” beginning next week.

But, already, the team was way ahead of him. Chalk suggested the Oct. 21 pep rally for that Friday’s exhibition soccer game against Harrison students. Several students mentioned the Oct. 17 field trip to the Farms View Farm and Willowbrook Mall in Wayne. And another suggested a story on the student “ambassadors” program where middle school students stay after school four days a week for an hour to help younger students with their reading.

Asked why they had chosen to participate, Monica Arce said: “It sounded curious. And this could be another thing that could turn into a hobby or something I can use later in life.”

For Brayhan Carrasco, the explanation was much simpler: “Technology is fun!”

Meanwhile, in an experiment designed to prove that everything old is new again, Martin has introduced “Morning Handwriting,” where kids in kindergarten to grade 4 set aside about 20 minutes before class practice print or cursive writing. Their reward for a successful mimicking of a Martin-produced writing sample is a candy bar whose wrapper they can use to enter a weekly raffle for a prize like a soccer ball. Martin asserted that, “East Newark School still values penmanship – a dying art – and all students are taught to print properly and then to write in cursive beginning in the third grade. All pieces written for school, starting with the fourth-grade year, must be written in cursive. There are multiple studies that conclude that the learning and use of cursive handwriting is an excellent discipline for the young scholar.

“The result of this effort is that dozens of children in the school have outstanding handwriting.”

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.