Kristina Sanchez , Contributor

We have many dedicated teachers and staff in our school building here at FDR. Their work comes with a lot of responsibility and not enough acknowledgment. The New Dealer was lucky enough to have an inside look at what really is being done with this new platform, GAMA. Having something so new, and still developing, we are bound to have many hiccups with its progress.  

The New Dealer: In your opinion how successful is GAMA? 

Mr. Catalano: I personally think it’s a good start. The idea behind it is actually something that should have been done for years, the idea of a uniformed one stop shop is something that I think will be best for everyone, parents, students, teachers and schools in general. Its been released in a way that could have been done better, but something occurred with other grading systems that didn’t give us much of a choice, so filling in that gap, it is partially successful that it’s a stop gap. I will say that more students and parents have the ability to access information, then they did in other systems. The fact that kids can get an unofficial transcript is phenomenal, because previously they couldn’t find out how many credits they had depending on the system. Seeing that unofficial transcript means that now we can actually educate parents and students to a greater extent, so they are better informed. 

The New Dealer: Yes! This transition was disruptive for a lot of our education system. How has this platform improved organization for teachers’ grading systems and attendance? 

Mr. Catalano: I’m always a fan of electronic attendance. One of the reasons is because it can be done right then and there. The idea of having to do something in multiple places on paper and electronic, is redundant. I could lose a piece of paper. The electronic aspect of it allows a better organization and better collection of actual data. However, anything electronic, due to WiFi, is always gonna be a problem. It’s also not just FDR, it’s the whole DOE. This idea of vertical alignment where one grade level is able to do the same kinds of things, as another grade level is huge! I think it will become more organized the more we use it. Change is hard, change is very difficult, and I think that no one ever wants to change if they are comfortable. Very often it can be a dynamic experience.

The New Dealer: Of course, we never expect sudden changes to be so impactful. To continue, how does GAMA differ from Pupilpath? 

Mr. Catalano: In Pupilpath, everything was in one single area where everything was accessible. If you clicked on a specific tab, you would be able to see different things. GAMA is connected to teach hub. There is a lot more room, there are so many different things, different apps where students can click on, that allows them to see different ports.  That’s one of the hurdles, that it’s new, so you don’t know where things are. Unfortunately, frustration may occur. You can still see the same things in GAMA; it’s just not in the same place. The more you use it, the more familiar you’ll become. GAMA is a DOE product that they’re building and still listening to our feedback. Right now, because it’s so new, they are implementing changes. Our school is fortunate that we have direct contact with DIIT, the people building it. Where principal Katz quite literally emails and speaks to the people creating this program weekly. With anything new, the more we use it, we’ll understand it better and then we will be able to actually give the feedback to the people working on it. 

The New Dealer: Do you see this platform improving for students’ access to grades?

Mr. Catalano: Eventually. Right now, FDR is using google classroom for grades and there is a linking system between Google Classroom and GAMA. The reason why I say eventually is, some teachers are piloting on their own. They are transferring their grades over into GAMA, but not every teacher is because that’s a lot, it’s hard and it’s an unstable system. Teachers are constantly working, and they are working so hard every single day. I see teachers working during their lunch. I see teachers coming in an hour early. I see a teacher staying for two hours after school working- because there’s a lot. To devote the time and effort that may work on Monday, but not work on Tuesday, it becomes a hurtle. Many teachers are currently using Google Classroom as their primary way of creating assignments and grades. There’s that linkage, and there’s that ability to transfer information. Eventually, it will be a good place for students to find their grades. Right now, because it’s not uniform across the building, it’s not fully accessible to parents and kids the way it can be when we make that full transition. Grading wise, and access to their information, will have a lot of it through Google Classroom, but I do have hope that the system will work eventually. I believe in our school, and I believe in our teachers. We are all under the same umbrella and sometimes things work and sometimes things don’t. 

The New Dealer: To conclude the final question is, what are possible challenges the school, parents, and students can face while using GAMA? 

Mr. Catalano: One of the idioms on the parent and student perspective, is that teachers are using it as a pilot here, not all that information is transferred over. I think one challenge as a parent is that one subject area may be using it and one subject area may not. One challenge, as a parent, turns into- well where do I go? The teachers need a system that is readily available that they could rely on. One challenge is built upon another challenge. The challenge for the teachers is that working on a system that works partially and is unstable for them to be able to transfer that information over. You can’t mess up a student’s grade! Having two things that don’t agree on something as important as a student’s grade, can cause a lot of friction where there shouldn’t ever be friction. I think it opens up a line of communication and a lot of trust, eventually. The instability the school faces causes a lot of challenges, and that disagreement in data and information takes time, to get to an eventual happy ending. I’m sure it will become great. Eventually…. 

A special thank you to Mr. Catalano for taking the time to speak with The New Dealer. We appreciate the hard work and devotion he has put into allowing students to have an easier access to this new platform, GAMA.