PHS launches "Bring Your Own Device" on Monday

14jan15_wifi.jpgIn an e-mail to parents last night, Portsmouth High School principal Robert Littlefield announced the official start of the school's "Bring Your Own Device" program on Monday, Feb. 3. Here's the e-mail from Littlefield:

We are getting ready to take our bold new step into the future -- the launching of our Bring Your Own Device policy on Monday, February 3rd.

Essentially, we will open our WiFi to anyone with an Internet device on our campus. When used RESPONSIBLY, and for its INTENDED PURPOSE this will amount to an exciting way to enhance student learning.

I have attached a copy of our "Frequently Asked Questions About BYOD" for all students and parents.

Every student at Portsmouth High School now has a PHS email account. We have sent an important message to every student about acceptable use of BYOD. In order to use our WiFi, students must open their email, click on a Google link, and agree to follow proper procedures. They will have until the end of the day on Thursday, January 30th to get this done.

Parents: click on the following link to connect with the BYOD page on our school's website. [link]

If you DO NOT want your child to have access to the Internet on a personal device, please contact the main office by emailing the message to

I want to be clear about some basic rules regarding BYOD:

  1. All use is to be at the discretion of the teacher.
  2. Access to the Internet must be through our filtered WiFi, no 3G, 4G, or hotspot access
  3. Using the PHS WiFi is a privilege, not a right. It can be taken away for improper use.
  4. No technology support is available for personal devices at this time. Students are responsible for their own devices.

We want our students to have the best learning opportunities possible. Therefore, we need everyone's cooperation if this to work.

As always, I welcome your questions and thoughts. Feel free to reply to this email to contact me.

Robert Littlefield

Download the BYOD guide (900K pdf)

Editorial note: Written from a PSD e-mail.

02871, Localblogging, Schools, PHS

Smarties doc hopes maggot threat will "dissuade children from snorting" [update]

After breaking the story of the Portsmouth school district "Smartie snorting" memo, harddeadlines reached out to the doctor who was quoted, Dr. Oren Friedman, Associate Professor, Otorhinolaryngology at the University of Pennsylvania. We asked if he had specifically studied Smartie snorting and if he could comment on the incidence and prevalence of Smarties-related maggot infestation. Here's his unedited reply.

We did not do a study on this in particular....however...we often see patients with foreign materials in their noses which can cause a variety of problems -- even years after the insult occurs. I recently removed an oyster shell from a 27 year old woman who had no idea it had been there. when I showed her what was in her nose, she said "I'm going to kill them" -- she remembered that when she was 5 or 6 years old, her older brothers were playing with these shells when they were at the beach, and she believed they inserted it into her nose when she was asleep. Just a funny anecdote that relates to the fact that things placed in the nose can remain there for years and cause problems over the long term.

The sugar in smarties can irritate the nose acutely and over the long term. In addition to the local irritation from the foreign material and powder, over time, the smarties can lead to various overgrowth of bugs including viruses/fungi/bacteria. The quote regarding the maggots relates to the fact that when a foreign material, and especially a food, resides in the nose for a long period of time, infections may occur, worms may reside in the nose, even maggots may flourish in this environment -- and we have encountered such a problem in the past. Hopefully the thought of possible maggots in the nose will help dissuade children from snorting the smarties.

When asked in a followup if he had actually ever seen Smarties cause maggots, he replied, "just a possibility. i have seen maggots in the nose from other food products in general."

So, the one actual quoted source in the memo sent to parents describes the threat as only a "possibility." There's no way to verify the claims about respiratory arrest, laryngospasm, or leading to drugs.

I’m not questioning that this may be something that kids have tried — one source told me kids had been seen doing it on Tuesday. But I’m shocked at the sloppy, loopy, cut-and-paste content of the message that PMS sent home. Parents deserve better communication from those responsible for their children.

For pickup in other media, see Portsmouth Patch, EastBayRI, The Newport Buzz,,

Update: And...BoingBoing

Updates, 1/21 More pickup: BoingBoing again, Gawker, Washington Post, Daily Mail (UK), HuffPo (UK), CBS News

02871, Localblogging, Schools, snorting smarties

Portsmouth Middle school "Smarties snorting" scare [update]

In an e-mail sent to Portsmouth Middle School parents this afternoon, someone in the administration sent a rather hysterical warning about the dangers of snorting Smarties, a story which has been popping up on the Net since at least 2009, when the Wall Street Journal decided to cover this horrifying epidemic.

[Subject] Important Health Advisory


Important Health Advisory for Parents Regarding the Candy, Smarties

We have recently become aware of an unsafe, new trend among some of our middle school students - smoking or snorting the candy, Smarties. Our research has taught us this is a widespread phenomenon and is the subject of many You-Tube videos. To smoke Smarties, students crush the candies into a fine powder while it is still in its wrapper, tear off an end, pour the powder into their mouths and blow out the smoke. Some are able to put the powder into their mouths and blow it out their noses. Thus, they imitate a smoker’s exhale. To snort Smarties, students use a straw or a rolled up piece of paper to snort the fine, crushed candy powder up into their nasal cavities. .

The “benefit” for students engaging in this practice is unknown. However, the risks, associated with inhaling Smarties smoke or snorting Smarties, are many and include:

  • Cuts- if the Smarties have not been finely crushed, pieces may act like razor blades cutting the tissue with which they come in contact.
  • Infection – sugar residue may remain in the nasal cavity, sinuses and/or lungs. This residue may lead to infections, cough, wheezing, and possible respiratory arrest.
  • Scarring of the nasal cavity – anything snorted can lead to scarring of the nasal passages. Also if a piece of the Smartie becomes lodged in the nasal cavity it may need to be removed by a specialist.
  • Irritation of the lungs – smoking or snorting Smarties can lead to a smoker’s cough which can cause laryngospasms causing the voice box to spasm or close.
  • Allergic reaction – if the child is allergic to sugar, snorting or smoking Smarties can lead to an immediate allergic reaction.
  • Possible Maggots – Dr. Oren Friedman, a Mayo Clinic nose specialist, has cautioned that frequent snorting could even rarely lead to maggots feeding on the sugary dust wedged inside the nose.
  • Precursor to future cigarette smoking and drug use – although there is no addictive piece to Smarties, the concern is this behavior may lead to cigarette smoking or snorting of drugs.

I have an e-mail in to the principal and school committee chair David Croston to find out the source of this information. It uses phrases like "our research," and makes an assertion about Smarties leading to snorting drugs which I think deserve some footnoting.

Coming up next: the danger of dihydrogen monoxide. It's a major component of acid rain, and it's in our children's drinking fountains at school!

Update: 7:11pm Portsmouth School Committee chair Dave Croston responds.

I can not address the PMS email or it's source. I became aware of this issue earlier today. I can say only that this behavior raises troubling issue of modeling. It would be fair to say snorting Smarties would not be normal behavior. I support the Middle School informing its parents first hand. I leave it to parents to have discussions with their own middle schoolers, as I have had with my sixth grade daughter. I fully support the open and rapid dissemination of this information to parents.

Update 2 Read my interview with the former Mayo Clinic doc on Smarties nose maggots. (Hint: Never actually saw them in a patient.)

Editorial note: WTF?

02871, Localblogging, Schools, snorting smarties

"Broadway" benefit returns to PHS

Click to embiggen.

"Broadway From Then 'til Now" returns for a fourth encore at Portsmouth High School on Sunday, Feb. 1, bringing the magic of musical theatre to the PHS stage in a benefit performance for the Portsmouth Schools, Looking Upwards, and other local causes. Sponsored by the Robert A. Davidson Charitable Fund, this always-fun evening will be packed with talent.

The concert is organized by professional actor/musicians Laurie Davidson Spaner, daughter of Dr. Davidson, and her husband Craig Spaner of Portsmouth who have many years of experience performing in the Boston area as well as RI, NY, and CT. Joining the Spaners in the group of 16 singers, 3 dancers, and 8 band members will be Alexis Alvanas, Brittany Croston, Sara Moore, Abby Moore, Jenna Roderiques, Andreas Evangelatos, Katie Spaner, & Kim Kekligian Stamoulis of Portsmouth, Lily Ferreira and John Thomas Cunha of Middletown, Leslie Zeile of Newport, Bristol native Adam Cavalieri, & several Boston area professionals. Special Guest Mr. Richard Price, Portsmouth Middle School Band Director. Choreography by Leslie Zeile & Katie Ross.

The Dr. Robert A. Davidson Charitable Fund was formed in memory of Dr. Robert A. Davidson, known to most as Bob or Dr. D., who was a Portsmouth resident who practiced dentistry in Tiverton for 37 years. The fund is dedicated to raising money for local community causes. Bob was dedicated to his family and his community, especially children, so the organizations chosen seemed a perfect fit. Also, eight of Dr. Davidson’s grandchildren attend Portsmouth Schools, with one more to go.

Looking Upwards, Inc. helps adults with developmental disabilities and families of children with special healthcare needs as well as being a resource for school departments and a variety of professionals. They provide individualized services based upon each person’s needs through direct support workers, nurses, physical therapists, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists,
behavioral consultants, family and individual therapists, service coordinators and support staff. More info at

Ticket info:
Broadway From Then 'til Now 4
A Concert of Broadway Showtunes, Old & New
To Benefit Portsmouth Schools & Looking Upwards, & other local causes

Portsmouth High School
Saturday, February 1, 2014 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM (EST)
$20 Adults, $10 Children Under 10
Buy advance tickets on or call 401-683-2824.

Editorial note: Written from a release.

Localblogging, 02871, Theater reviews, Schools

Tiverton schools to go wireless

14jan15_wifi.jpgTiverton and Smithfield schools will be getting a wireless network upgrade from Envision Technology Advisors, according to a press release from the Pawtucket company.

The contracts are part of the Rhode Island Department of Education's (RIDE) Wireless Classroom Initiative. Aimed at expanding wireless access in Rhode Island schools over the next two years, these contracts represent just a few of those that will be awarded as part of this $20 million initiative.

"We are very excited to have been awarded these two contracts and we look forward to working with the schools in these districts," says Michael Ando, Envision's COO. "These districts are two of the first in Rhode Island to announce their vendors of choice and we are thrilled that they have chosen to partner with Envision. As more school districts award their contracts in the coming weeks, we hope to be able to announce additional schools that will be working with Envision for this important initiative."

The contract for Tiverton covers the 5 schools in that district, while the Smithfield school district will bring wireless to six schools.

"I live in Smithfield and my two kids attend school there," says Envision's Director of Marketing, Jeremy Girard. "Knowing that Envision's efforts and expertise will help improve access to technology for students in their school, as well as others throughout our state, is a very rewarding feeling."

"As a Rhode Island company, we are proud to be included in an initiative that will make such a significant impact on the quality of education, and access to technology, provided in our schools," remarked Envison's CEO, Todd Knapp, when the company was first named a Qualified Vendor for this initiative. With the awarding of these contracts, he reiterated those feelings and added, "Work like this, which is both meaningful and rewarding, is what we love here at Envision. We can't wait to get started."

In addition to the contracts for these two school districts, Envision was also awarded a similar contract to install wireless for the Rhode Island Department of Education's main office. A total of 4 floors in the organization's Providence office will be set up for wireless access.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

Localblogging, 02871, Schools, edtech

Portsmouth High School launches "Bring Your Own Device"

In an e-mail this morning, Portsmouth High School principal Robert Littlefield formally announced the new "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) program which will enable students to use their own internet-enabled devices, starting in January.

To all Portsmouth High School families,

We are gearing up for rolling out a significant development at Portsmouth High School shortly after New Year’s Day in January 2014. Soon we will be opening up our school to a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) practice where students, teachers, and visitors will have Internet access through our own Wi-Fi on campus.

It seems like each week I become aware of a new learning opportunity being offered by teachers that is dependent on students having access to the Internet. We have invested a great deal of resources toward modern computer labs and laptop carts and our Information Technology department does a tremendous job maintaining our network, implementing software, and keeping our hardware up and running. Yet, there are times when a trip to the computer lab is not necessary if quick access to the Internet is available.

Opening Wi-Fi
Starting in January, students will be invited to bring smartphones, laptops, tablets, netbooks, etc. to school in order to employ the devices for educational purposes only. In addition to opening Wi-Fi, each student will have an account for storing assignments on “the cloud” for easy access and sharing.

If we had our wishes, we would be issuing computers to every student. However, that is not possible at this time. However, we feel students run the risk of losing out on learning opportunities by limiting access to the Internet to only those students sitting in computer labs. We hope to allow those students with devices to use them while at the same time offering the opportunity without devices to borrow them from the school.

Obviously, this presents some challenges. We have a faculty committee working on guidelines for the proper use of devices while in school. For instance, students must only access the Internet through our properly filtered Wi-Fi and not through the 3G networks supplied by their telephone service.

More information and opportunities to purchase
Much more information is available on the Portsmouth School District website, including offers by vendors for purchasing devices at an educational discount. I invite all parents to explore these opportunities.


This is an exciting time for our school. I will continue to keep you posted on developments as the roll-out date approaches.

As always, if you have questions or comments please do not hesitate to reply to this email.

Robert Littlefield

Editorial note: Written from a PHS e-mail.

02871, Localblogging, Schools, edtech, PHS

Hundreds attend RIDE education technology conference

Portsmouth School committee represents at the RIDE tech conference (l-r) Tom Vadney, Dave Croston, Fred Faerber, Terri Cortvriend.

More than 600 educators from Rhode Island and beyond gathered in Providence today for the RI Dept. of Education 2013 Technology Conference. In just a year since the inaugural event, the conference has doubled in size and adopted a multi-track format spread across function rooms at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

RIDE Commissioner Deborah Gist kicked off the event, followed by a day of plenary sessions, breakouts, and demos by both students and vendors.

In the spirit of digital disintermediation, rather than describe the event, you can take a look at some photos up on Flickr, watch an exclusive harddeadlines interview with keynote speaker and iSchool CEO Travis Allen on YouTube, and read the voluminous and detailed tweets by attendees who used the hashtag #RIDEpowered2013.

02871, Localblogging, RIDE, Schools, edtech

Supt. McGann greets Portsmouth Middle students

Supt. McGann and Principal Joseph Amaral greet students.

Portsmouth's new interim Superintendent, retired Rear Admiral Barbara McGann was at the Middle School on Jepson Lane this morning as busses arrived and parents dropped off kids, greeting the students with Principal Joseph Amaral. Amaral introduced the students to the Superintendent, not just by name, but also mentioning activities they were involved in, and McGann shook their hands and asked about their experience this year. In response to a reporter's question, McGann also expressed enthusiasm for the PMS robotics program, calling it "a centerpiece of STEAM," the acronym used for the curriculum areas of "Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math." Look for a full interview here on harddeadlines soon.

02871, Localblogging, PSD, Schools

Portsmouth appoints retired Rear Admiral McGann as superintendent

The Portsmouth school committee formally announced the appointment of the new interim superintendent, retired Rear Admiral Barbara McGann, in an e-mail to the community this morning. Here's the entire text of the broadcast e-mail from School Committee chair Dave Croston, followed by the press release.

Message from Dave Croston:

Please join me in welcoming Rear Admiral (Upper Half) USN (Ret.) Barbara McGann as our Interim Superintendent of Schools. On a unanimous vote last evening, the School Committee approved Admiral McGann, who will take the helm immediately. This is an incredibly exciting and important event for Portsmouth Schools. Barbara brings a wealth of educational and operational experience to the Portsmouth Schools. She is pioneer in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) education and served as Executive Director of the Advance Math and Science Charter School in Marlboro, Massachusetts for three years. She was Superintendent of the Marlborough, Massachusetts system, with 4,589 students, and Assistant Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools. Her Naval career was long and distinguished. Barbara retired after serving as Provost of the Naval War College and was past Commander of the Navy Recruiting Command. Please see attached Press Release for more detail.

I first met Barbara almost five years ago on a visit to the Advanced Math and Science Academy in Marlborough, Massachusetts. I knew a member of the AMSA Board who raved about Barbara and what the school was accomplishing. Barbara's focus will be on our students and the quality of the instruction. She is a collaborative leader that will reach-out to you and will listen. As a parent, I can't be more excited for the District and our future.

Your Portsmouth Schools Central Administration is a dynamic team that has been rebuilt over the past few months. I want to thank Jeff Schoonover, Assistant Superintendent for his leadership this past summer. Jeff was appointed Assistant Superintendent in July having served as Interim Director of Curriculum. Prior to that Jeff led the PHS Science Department as Chair. In 2009, Jeff's innovative views related to science curriculum and dedication to his students led the Portsmouth High teacher to be named a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Jeff and Barbara make an incredibly dynamic team as we strive to build our STEAM education components.

While many of you never meet the business side of Central Administration we are truly blessed to have attracted an incredible team. Earlier this spring the Portsmouth School Committee hired Chris DiIuro as Director of Finance and Administration. Chris was Controller for the $40 Billion CVS retail division and now directs our sub $40 Million budget, probably no less work in our environment. Chris has done an incredible job in the past six months building accounting best practice, financial controls, and developing long term financial forecasts. He is truly our unsung hero.

Skip Uhl joined the District as Finance Manager two weeks ago. Skip brings a wealth of operational and financial experience to Portsmouth. Skip worked with Chris at CVS and prior to that for Melville Corporation. He most recently ran financial operations of a paper recycling plant owned by the Kraft Family. Skip is a consummate professional that we are honored to have as part of the team.

This summer we also 'promoted' Cathy Nash to direct Human Resources. Cathy has incredible institutional knowledge of the District and has hit the ground running. She is doing a great job in organizing the department and building best practices. Cathy was Assistant to the Assistant Superintendent for many years, excelling at every task.

I would be remiss not to commend everyone at Central Administration as they truly keep our wheels moving and each go out of their way to assure our schools run smoothly.

We will hold an Administrative Open House in September where I hope you will have the opportunity to meet this team in person.

Press release:

Portsmouth, R.I - The Portsmouth School Committee at its meeting of Monday, August 19th selected Rear Admiral Barbara E. McGann as Interim Superintendent of Schools. McGann will serve for the balance of the 2013-2014 school year and will take the helm in time for the first day of school. Rear Admiral McGann most recently was the Executive Director of the Advanced Math and Science Academy in Marlborough, Massachusetts, a Massachusetts Charter School. She served in that capacity for three years stabilizing the young Charter School and developing a model next generation learning community. The Advanced Math and Science Academy was an International Baccalaureate school, signifying the highest in academic achievement.

“We are more than excited to bring in a CEO of Barbara’s depth and experience. She shares our commitment to develop in Portsmouth a 21st century education model. Her commitment to the student, the classroom, and her ability to work collaboratively with all stakeholders is truly a gift to Portsmouth,” said David Croston, Chair of the Portsmouth School Committee. “I am incredible excited for our families in Portsmouth.”

McGann has served as Superintendent in Marlborough, Massachusetts, an urban school district serving 4,589 students; and, as Assistant Superintendent in Boston, Massachusetts. She was led to an educational career as a Fellow of the Broad Urban Superintendents Academy. McGann served two years from 2002 to 2004 as Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross of Rhode Island upon her retirement from the Navy.

Rear Admiral McGann had a most prestigious Naval Career retiring as Rear Admiral (“2 Star”) in 2002, having served as Provost of the Naval War College, Newport Rhode Island.

Her first duty station was Naval Air Station, Meridian, Mississippi, where she was the Public Affairs Officer. She reported to Navy Recruiting District, Los Angeles in 1972, where she served as an Officer Recruiter for two years. In 1974 she was assigned to Headquarters, Navy Recruiting Command, Washington, D.C., as Assistant Director in the Plans and Policy Division. Her next tour was as the assignment officer for junior Surface Warfare Officers at the Bureau of Naval Personnel from 1976 to 1978.

In April 1978, Rear Admiral McGann was transferred to the Pentagon to work for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Personnel Policy Division. Following that tour, she reported to Navy Recruiting District, Iselin, New Jersey, where she served as the Executive Officer from 1980 to 1982.

After graduation from the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, in November 1983, Rear Admiral McGann served as a special assistant to the Secretary of the Navy for Manpower andReserve Affairs from 1983 to 1985. Her next tour of duty was as an Assignment Officer at Navy Personnel Command from 1985 to 1987.

After promotion to Commander, she assumed command of Naval Support Activity, Holy Loch, Scotland, in June 1987. During this time she was designated as a Joint Specialty Officer. After two years in command, Rear Admiral McGann was assigned to the office of the Chief of Naval Operations where she served as Head of Middle East, Africa and South Asia Plans and Policy. In September 1990, she became the Executive Assistant to the Commander, Navy Recruiting Area Eight, San Francisco, California. Following this tour in 1993, Rear Admiral McGann taught Strategic Studies as a Fellow at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

In June 1994, Rear Admiral McGann assumed the rank of Rear Admiral (Lower Half) and assumed the duties of Assistant Chief of Naval Personnel for Total Force Programming and Manpower. She became Commander, Navy Recruiting Command in September 1996. In July 1997, she was promoted to Rear Admiral (Upper Half). In September 2000, she assumed duties as Provost, Naval War College.

Rear Admiral McGann earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from the College of Our Lady of the Elms, Chicopee, Massachusetts, and was commissioned through the Officer Candidate School, Newport, Rhode Island in March 1970. She holds a Master of Science Degree in Business Administration from Salve Regina University, Newport, Rhode Island, and a Master of Arts Degree in Foreign Affairs from Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. She was conferred an honorary Doctor of Education Degree from Roger Williams University in 2002.

Her personal Decorations include two Distinguished Service Medals, two Legion of Merit Medals, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, four Meritorious Service Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

Rear Admiral McGann is a native of Newport, Rhode Island where she presently resides.

Editorial note: Written (with enthusiasm and delight) from a press release.

02871, Localblogging, Schools, School Committee

Portsmouth schools prep for Aug 27 start (with new tech!)


In an e-mail sent to parents this morning, the Portsmouth School Department provided info about the upcoming school year, recapped schedules, covered free and reduced price lunch, and offered a brief technology update. You can download the full pdf, and here's the tech info:

We are very fortunate to have our Portsmouth community who supports and values the use of technology in education. This summer, we made investments in our network infrastructure and in our systems to support the curriculum, improve efficiencies and to prepare for high stakes online testing. As the new school year begins, we plan to make investments in our valued employees to ensure that they are well trained and proficient in using the equipment, integrating it into the classroom and serving as technology role models to our students.

Portsmouth High School has two more wings (four in total) of classrooms that have interactive projectors and document cameras. The Art Department and the TV Studio has refreshed MacBooks and the Modern World Language and Science Department’s mobile carts have been refreshed. At Portsmouth Middle School, the 4th and 5th grade now join the Math, Science and Computer classes in being outfitted with Interactive White Boards. The 7th grade Math curriculum highlights rigorous digital content. A mobile cart of thirty laptops has been configured and deployed to support this initiative. The Music lab has been upgraded. We are very proud to have the opportunity to improve the elementary schools. Each school has mobile cart refreshes and we are in the preparation stages of building a stationery classroom computer lab. Each teacher will supplement their classroom set of document camera, projector and netbook with the mimeo device. This device will enhance teaching and learning by turning the projector into an interactive classroom device. The 8-year-old thin clients have been removed in each classroom and replaced with three Mac mini devices dedicated to student use.

This new equipment and our initiatives would be useless without the dedication of our Administration, Teachers and Staff who embrace the use of technology in their classrooms and in their daily work. They are eager to learn and practice while they integrate technology into lessons to improve student performance. We are very privileged to have our technology team who is dedicated to supporting all users in the district to use the technology and to improve technology skills. Our team has been very busy during the summer, and look forward to a very exciting school year, 2014!

Full disclosure: I'm a volunteer member of the District technology committee and and appointed member of the School Committee technology subcommittee. Without speaking for either group, have to say that I'm delighted to see the thin clients replaced with actual workstations.

And for all the work that's been underway to enhance our kids learning environment, a big thank you to the IT staff, teachers, and volunteers who have been working behind the scenes to make this happen. You all rock.

02871, Localblogging, Schools, PSD