The purpose of this Organizational Profile is to discuss the key features of the Passaic County Technical Institute to serve as a point of reflection for the development and application of a customized, beneficial, and transformative Capstone Project in Instructional Design. The profile will discuss the dynamics of the institution including, the function, location, size, employee make up, culture, vision, and current aspirations and challenges.
Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI) was established in 1917 initially as a Vocational Institution to serve the needs of Paterson. Eventually it evolved into a full-fledged high school incorporating both academic and trade school curricula in 1946. In 1964 the school was turned over to the Free Holders and became a magnet school for Passaic County and adopted the official name of Passaic County Technical Institute. It became a well-funded institution and it continues to expand to this day. In 1970, Wayne New Jersey became the official home of PCTI and welcomed 1500 students. It is essentially a mini-college campus with different buildings and wings, a brand new athletic center, state of the art equipment and athletic fields, and has come to offer AP courses and other specialized programs. The institution currently welcomes 3,200 students and has over 400 teachers. The students and teacher population are very diverse coming from different social classes, cultures and religions. The students come from all over Passaic County and the programs are so diverse ensuring a wide range of learner types. Additionally, 20% of the school population is special needs. In addition to the Vocational Courses, all students are required to take the core academic subjects. The programs are continuously evolving and a new STEM building is currently being built which will accommodate another 1,000 students and offer even more programs.
Putting the Tech in Passaic County Tech
Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI) is committed to preparing students for college and career readiness, while exceeding state requirements. The administration has utilized funding to improve programs and facilities. The Free Holders of Passaic County allocate the school budget to run and develop the institution. Teachers are invested in their students and are aware that each student is juggling Vocational Courses, towards his or her selected technical program, and rigorous academics. Fiver years ago the former Principal retired after several years of dedicated service and a Seton Hall Graduate, Dr.Michael Parent, joined the team. As part of his school vision he wants to develop the learners and equip them with the necessary technology skills to empower them to meet the challenges of the ever changing. His first major initiative was the 1:1 Program which provided each student with a personal Chromebook for educational use. With this initiative there was an abundance of Professional Development in modifying the learning environment working towards a “Flipped Classroom” where content learning can occur at home and a focus on practical and student centered learning can occur during the classroom time. Additionally, teachers were provided with Learning Management Systems (LMS), like Blackboard, to enhance the 1:1 initiative.
A Climate of Change – Encountering Resistance
The relatively new Principal at PCTI is dramatically different than the old. With a stronger handle on technology, and an awareness of the movement of education to Standards Based Grading, he plans to improve PCTI. As he says, “Our school is great, but we can still make it better”. For each major undertaking he strives to establish a core team and works to solicit support and participation from the teachers, administration and staff. Unfortunately, he encounters resistance from many old timers who are frustrated with continuous state intervention and modification to their programs and lessons. The young and new teachers are still moldable and more flexible, but they still need to believe in the vision in order to be fully invested with their time and energy. As a visionary the Principal has shared his goals with the administration to offer hybrid and online courses, and utilizing the flipped classroom. The school has adapted a new Learning Management System (LMS) in place of Blackboard called Canvas because it is more affordable and has better real-time support for our teachers. In order to facilitate the use of technology in the school, this year teachers will be getting Macbook Pro Laptops to facilitate the teaching and learning.
Challenges and Opportunities
The Superintendent of PCTI is Mrs.Diana Lobsco and she has endorsed the school vision proposed by our Principal. As a result, the organization is going through a huge transition that will continue over the next four years. Teams are currently being assembled to facilitate the school transition into an institution that can serve as a leading model of a modern school that is student-centered, technology oriented, and college and career focused. Teachers will be expected to learn to use Google Classroom and to utilize our LMS, Canvas, in efforts to become a successful 1:1 school. Professional Development (PD) is ongoing in targeting various topics, and recently in house PD has become very popular. Teachers are more likely to ease the fear and tension that their peers may be feeling during such a great transition where the stakes and expectations are high. Currently, there is a strong and immediate need for Professional Development with regards to Canvas because many teachers are still not using it. The ones that are using Canvas have not tapped into some essential features that can greatly enhance the 1:1 experience. Additionally, the less comfortable they are the more resistance they have.
While there are 400 teachers and several departments, the target group for the Capstone would be the Science department which consists of approximately 40 teachers. There are slightly more female science teachers than males, and the ages vary with the majority being between the ages of 25-40. Some range from novice to expert in regards to their competency with Canvas. And, while almost all have used Canvas to some capacity due to a technology savvy supervisor and collaboration that takes place with teachers in similar disciplines, there are still questions that surface and many have expressed a desire for efficiency and fluidity in handling Canvas. The teachers in the Science Department do not all believe in the school vision and feel overwhelmed at times with the exception of a few. Making a lesson student centered and incorporating technology can require a tremendous amount of planning and preparation to be successful. Without a strong confidence in using Canvas the digital classroom can become messy and disorganized requiring teachers to reinvent their lessons year to year instead of using a template to build off of and develop from one year to the next. It is officially the first year of a five year contract with Canvas and as a result, the teachers are more willing to learn if it will make their life and teaching more efficient and effective. They are just looking for help and practical assistance from people who understand what they are going through.
School History. Passaic County Technical Institute. Retrieved from www.pcti.tec.nj.us on 2 February 2017.