Archive for Thursday, April 28, 2005

New tech director: ‘I have some big shoes to fill’

Marge McElwee saying goodbye after decades with Eudora USD 491

April 28, 2005

It's the difference between The Beatles and Green Day. It's the difference between the escalation of the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom. It's the difference between the first television episode of "Star Trek" and the last big screen episode of "Star Wars."

It's the difference between 1966 and 2005, and Marge McElwee has seen it all during her many years of work in Eudora schools.

Now McElwee, Eudora USD 491's technical director for the last decade, is passing on the mantle and her large office to the technically savvy Ron Long.

Long, a Eudora resident, was hired by the Board of Education to take over for McElwee, who has served in several capacities within the district over the years and will retire at the conclusion of the school year.

McElwee has been the district's technology director for about 10 years, and prior to that, she was a teacher. She took a few years off in the 1970s to complete her graduate work at Kansas University.

McElwee has a master's degree in education with chemistry as a teaching field, and taught for several years at Eudora High School.

As the technical director, McElwee said her job has been mostly working with the district's equipment and making sure everything is in working order, and keeping other district employees up to date with the new technology and equipment. She has also been instrumental in implementing new data systems to keep track of student information throughout the district.

McElwee said a lot has changed in the 10 years she has been the district's technical director.

"Ten years ago we didn't find very many computers in the classroom," she said. "Now laptops have become readily available."

McElwee said technology in the schools had hugely progressed over the last few years. Today, Eudora students have access to computers for every subject of study. Large areas of schools are designated for instruction using computers. Teachers either have computers in their classrooms, or they can request as many laptops as they need for teaching. And because the laptops are wireless, there is no setup time.

Technology in the schools has also changed the way students complete required tests. Eudora fourth-graders took their state assessments online this year, and results were available to the district instantly.

"The use of the Internet has exploded," McElwee said.

Within her years as the technical director, McElwee said she has also seen a huge change in the way students complete their research for assignments. Students used to pour through paper encyclopedias, but today the information they need is found either online or with electronic encyclopedias installed on the schools' computers.

"Even if you want to use the encyclopedia you use the electronic version and not the paper version," McElwee said.

McElwee said her impending retirement will give her more time for her hobbies. She enjoys creating stained glass and is looking forward to traveling the world. Although no travel plans are made yet, she said her top three destinations were Australia, Vietnam and Hawaii.

McElwee and Long have been working together since March.

Long has lived in Eudora for 13 years and has three children in Eudora schools.

He has been in the information technology field for 13 years.

"This is a fantastic opportunity to remain in the town I live in and be part of the school district which I have a vested interest in," Long said.

Long said McElwee has been giving him a history lesson, teaching him about the equipment in the schools and what it is used for.

"I love the prospect of the opportunity that is here," Long said. "It's a growing school district with a foundation of technology."

Long was chosen as the best man for the job, but he said he still had a lot to learn from McElwee.

"I have some big shoes to fill," he said.

But McElwee didn't seem to be worried.

"My feet aren't that big," she said.

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