September 7, 2022

East Orange schools supervisor of educational technology receives award

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EAST ORANGE, NJ — Returning from vacation and just settling into her morning routine in the East Orange School District, supervisor of educational technology Paulette Salomon was congratulated by a colleague. The colleague told Salomon that she was “such a visionary,” leading the bemused supervisor to check her email. 

“That’s how I found out,” Salomon said about winning the New Jersey Visionary Educators Award, a recognition from both ClassLink and the state of New Jersey. An email announcing the news had been forwarded districtwide by Assistant Superintendent of Schools Anita Champagne. 

To receive this award, an educator must have the passion and creativity to design future-focused learning experiences and programs that inspire and empower students and colleagues. Salomon is one of three educators in the state to receive this noteworthy distinction.

According to the district, Salomon played a critical role in supporting the successful transition by the district into remote instruction and learning during the pandemic. Her colleague and “partner in crime” for the past two decades, IT network manager Curtis Frazier accepted the award on her behalf.

Salomon described her experience during the pandemic as requiring “patience, a flexible mindset and steadfastness of purpose.” 

“During COVID, we got notification that we would work remotely. I wasn’t really concerned because I rolled out Google Drive and Google Apps, and Google Classroom three years prior to COVID. I knew we would be OK getting out instruction to students. Curtis set up a special password reset email that we used to communicate with both parents and students alike. We were working around the clock. It was important for me, as a parent, to address every parent question and concern. Parents would email after they got home from work, 6, 7, 8 o’clock. We would stay up and address each of their concerns, and get up early too to respond to their questions. I am empathetic to parents’ concerns,” Salomon said. “Long days and long nights were the mainstay during this period. I wanted to make sure the transition would be easy on them.”

Parent concerns included Wi-Fi access and hotspots, the need for devices, and parent workshops. 

“Parents wanted to know how they could help their kids and have access to their work,” Salomon said. “We offered over 100 parent workshops during this time to help them navigate their child’s learning.”

It soon became apparent, however, that Salomon’s expertise would have a far greater reach.

“At first, I thought my role was to support the students and teachers. I found myself becoming a support for administration, secretaries and central office staff. I can say my role changed when COVID hit — I became a support for the district,” she said. 

Going the extra mile, Salomon, aided by Champagne, delivered monitors in the back of her truck to schools in the district for teacher use. 

“I grew up in East Orange and went through the East Orange public school system through the eighth grade. I always knew I wanted to return to my hometown and serve my community,” Salomon said.

Salomon has been in the district for 27 years, beginning her career as a classroom teacher in various disciplines, including English, Spanish and technology before transitioning to the administrative side of education.

“And I tell everybody that it is an honor to work alongside my former teachers and administrators,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Photos Courtesy of Mirvetk Tonuzi

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