Judith Rohn – The Wizard of West 89th :: 1999

Judith Rohn – The Wizard of West 89th
Write-up on Judith from PS166 Webpage 1999

Not so long ago a line out was something you hung your wet clothes on, a screen something you stopped flies with, and a mouse a little rodent with a bowtie who sang and danced on the Disney Channel. The world was a simpler place. A megabyte was what you trained your dog not to do. Micro-chips were those little brown crumbs at the bottom of the Frito’s bag. Clearing disk space meant backing old Aunt Ethel off the sidewalk so she wouldn’t get hit by your Frisbee.

Nowadays, on the beach in Bali, where Judith Rohn — administrative staffer and unofficial tech wizard — spends her summer every year, perhaps these words still mean the same thing. But from the moment she steps through the schoolhouse door in September, the dictionary turns digital.

Over the past 9 years or so, she has helped oversee the transformation of PS166 into one of the most technologically advanced elementary schools in the district. A renovated computer lab with a full-time teacher and 32 internet-access terminals, brand new eMacs and printers in every classroom,, one of the most extensive public school websites in the city, a growing collection of educational software and internet curriculum links, and — perhaps key to it all — the support of a school community eager to move into the twenty-first century.

Judith credits now retired Principal Jack Regan with the foresight to embrace this new technology — “this has been his vision of the school for a long time” — and goes on to laud the groundbreaking work of District 3 Superintendent Pat Romandetto, Gil Turchin (District “Guru” in charge of Funded Programs), for bringing in the necessary funding, equipment, and support. City councilperson Gale Brewer has been most helpful in keeping our system up to date with the help of two RESOA grants in the past three years. Vivian Kalish, our now retired computer teacher deserves credit as one of the earliest trailblazers for technology in the schools, building a computer lab and program at PS166 years before the rest of the world caught on. Parent volunteers have also been of crucial help in assembling the pieces of the puzzle, among them pioneer and Renaissance Man Phil Arnold, who together with Judith built the original web site and enlisted parent and teacher support; our “gift from on high” computer professional Keith Eisenstark, who donated the website space and can found nearly every day at the school, convening with Judith, untangling software and networking knots, and generally lending his support and advice; Peter Armstrong, who sought out grant money and PTA contributions, shepherded equipment into the classrooms, hooked up printers and peripherals, and Ira Gershenhorn who turns his hand to any task at hand. Ira is ‘graduating’ this year. anyone out there willing and able?? They all generally spread the word throughout our community that PS166 is truly earning its designation as a “School of Arts and Technology”.

As anyone who has ever waded into that mess of wires behind a computer knows (mine looks like a plate of Angel Hair Pasta!), a mountain of work remains to be done. But with Judith on the job — digital seamstress, doctor of the hard drive, puller of the gears and levers that keep the wizardry running — we can boot up secure in the knowledge that somehow, somewhere, all roads lead to Rohn. [Alan Sincic]

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