Schechter dedicates new media center

Schechter dedicates new media center

Students at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Monmouth County this year are finding that the library has almost no print volumes — just a few titles for younger children.

(Of course, traditional texts and prayer books are used in the school.)

In place of the books, the Marlboro school offers 16 Mac desktop computers and more than a dozen iPads — all housed in a new media center named in memory of Marsha Lilien Gladstein.

Gladstein, who died 18 years ago at the age of 49, was the grandmother of two current SSDS students, Casey Grafstein, 12, and her brother Daniel, 10.

The children and their parents, Allen and Mindy Grafstein of Marlboro, and other relatives were honored guests Aug. 29 as the school dedicated the new facility.

The family had presented SSDS with a substantial contribution, and matching funds for the project came from the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education.

Mindy described her mother, an early childhood educator, as an exceptional human being. “When we decided to honor her, doing something for the school became an obvious choice,” she said.

Also attending the ceremony were Mindy’s father, Gary Gladstein of Connecticut, and Allen’s parents, Ralph and Rachel Grafstein, who live in Monroe Township.

Gary Gladstein attached a mezuza to the doorpost of the media center, while Rabbi Michael Pont of Congregation Ohev Shalom-Marlboro Jewish Center recited the blessing and offered a few remarks.

Pont, who has two children attending the school and an SSDS graduate in high school, said that the Media Center will help the school stay competitive with other educational institutions. “Our kids deserve nothing less than to be able to move ahead with confidence in an increasingly technological world,” he said.

The center features four irregularly spaced square tables — quads — each supporting four individual workstations, with the computer screens placed corner to corner.

Mindy Grafstein credited Jessica Jundef, the SSDS librarian and technology coordinator, with suggesting the unusual look of the room, which also features two high-tech projectors and, on opposite walls, two large screens. Andrew DeFeo, of ASD Computers in Toms River, installed the system. He said both screens can display the same images simultaneously, or they can be set up to show different subject matter.

Jundef told NJJN that the quad arrangement is ideally suited for modern education techniques.

“We no longer expect students to line up like little soldiers facing a commanding officer,” she said. “We want them to interact more, with each other and with the teacher, who is now a mobile presence shifting from table to table and dealing with smaller groups at any one time.”

Internet technology will enable students to connect with their peers across the nation and around the globe.

Head of school Yoti Yarhi said she believes that SSDS students working “with students from other regions of the country and the world through video chatting will broaden their perspectives. The partnerships developed through our technology curriculum go beyond the ‘pen-pal’ correspondence of yesteryear to full-fledged learning projects, which are only possible through platforms like wikis” — web applications that allow people to add, modify, or delete content in collaboration with others — “and the video-conferencing world.”

Current enrollment is now 160 at the Marlboro Schechter school, including 25 new students from the East Brunswick-based SSDS of Raritan Valley, which announced its closing on Aug. 16.

A spokesperson for SSDS Marlboro said that for these students, tuition for this year would be priced at the same amount families were paying in East Brunswick. In addition, transportation will be available for those youngsters, most of whom live in Old Bridge and other nearby Middlesex County towns.

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