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Groton Opts for Electronic Bulletin Boards

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Groton Opts for Electronic Bulletin Boards

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When students and faculty return to campus every year, they are greeted by a number of changes in technology and communication policies. This year, these changes included new group email names, increased MyGroton utilization, and most visibly, four new television screens serving as electronic bulletin boards. Two are located in the Athletic Center foyer, one is on the first floor of the Dining Hall, and one is in the hallway by the Deans’ Office.

Chief Technology Officer Elizabeth Preston proposed the addition of these screens last spring. Members of the Athletic Department had expressed a desire to convey information to visiting teams in a more professional and accessible way than putting up whiteboards in the foyer. Ms. Preston recalled that St. Luke’s, a private middle and high school which she had worked at previously, used screens around campus to share information. She realized that these screens could help not only the athletic department, but the whole School, to communicate better. She began to draft a proposal.

Chief Financial Officer Arthur Diaz explained the funding process. At Groton, such projects are paid for by one of two types of budgets. Each department has a budget for operating costs and smaller projects, and then the school also has a capital budget for larger projects. In conjunction with the trustees and the headmaster, Mr. Diaz establishes dollar parameters for each department budget.  A separate committee recommends the capital budget, which then also gets approved by Mr. Maqubela and the trustees. He explained that each department, within the restraints of their operating budget can decide “what are their highest priorities,” and make decisions internally.  Larger projects go through the extra level of approval before making it into the list of capital projects for the coming year.

While the new television screens came out of the Technology Office’s capital budget, the matter was decided mostly internally, since the cost was lower than most capital projects. Even so, the financial aspect of the screen installations frustrated some students. Josie Fulton ’18 called them “frivolous,” mentioning how the funds could have gone towards other worthwhile initiatives such as making Groton more eco-friendly. Other students found they diminish tradition on campus. Walker Davey ’19 said, “they detract from the beauty of those respective spaces,” mentioning that senior portraits used to cover the wall in the Dining Hall where one of the screens now stands.

One goal of these “virtual bulletin boards,” to borrow Ms. Preston’s language, is to “take advantage of the tools that we have,” referring to the Groton School website and the MyGroton system. Partnering with the company Venue Vision, content is pulled from publications to the website and formatted using this outside source’s templates. Currently, the screens show a rotating loop that includes Roll Call announcements, upcoming School activities, athletic results, news article snippets, and the Dining Hall menu. Previously, much of this information was shared via all-school emails, and Ms. Preston hoped that these screens could reduce that excessive inbox traffic.

While the TVs may be viewed as unnecessary and unattractive, they have the potential to increase effective communication on campus. As Ms. Preston said, “We want to make you healthy, productive people.” She looks forward to hearing thoughts on the new screens and helping them to adapt to best serve the community.

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