Newington school district's Smart Bus runs on high-IQ gas

Published on Thursday, 5 October 2017 15:04
Written by Charles Paullin

Staff Writer

NEWINGTON - While the childhood song said the wheels on the bus go round and round, the wheels on a new bus in Newington could probably teach the wheels in the song a few moves.

The district unveiled its new Smart bus to serve all seven schools the district, community members and more, outside Newington High School last week.

“The students are the main reason behind this project,” said Salerno. “They are our pioneers, our experts, our risk takers, and most importantly, our future,” said Jay Salerno, director of educational technology for the district.

Salerno originated the idea as part of a Google Innovator program he was involved with.

After receiving the bus from Superintendent of Schools William Collins, Salerno pitched the idea to build the technology integrated to Smart. Collins liked the idea instantly.

“We love it at Smart because our whole vision is about making sure we play a role in helping students find their greatness,” said Kristin Slavin, Smart’s director of sales for North America.

The 2004 International Athletic Bus that served the district for sporting events was decommissioned and was equipped with three Smart interactive displays - virtual reality, audio and Wi-Fi - with help from Connecticut Business Systems.

The market and in-kind contribution of the technology, repairs and updates to the bus by Dattco, and a wrap by Image 360, are valued at $40,000, according to Smart. With the donation and bus already within the district, the project cost no additional funds to the district.

The plan is to have it travel around the district, and other districts that may not have access to such technology, said Salerno, to provide students with learning opportunities while being out in the community, as well as provide community members access to technology they otherwise wouldn’t have.

“I think it’s great if we can use technology to teach us,” said Ryan Claffey, a seventh-grade TechSpert at John Wallace Middle School who was instructing on-lookers while his sister played an educational computer game on a nearby desk.

The TechSpert program is a district program students can enter in third and fourth grade to expand and explore technological learning opportunities.

Claffey added that the bus creates more of a collaborative effort for teachers and students to share classroom materials from computers and phones across different screens.

Mayor Roy Zartarian was on site for the unveiling, and said, “I was very disappointed it is not accessible to the handicapped.” Using a cane to walk around, he was unable to board the bus, and thought it was a little redundant with similar technologies at the library.

Zartarian’s challenger, Terry Borjeson, who was also present for the unveiling, thought the bus was fabulous, saying the district needs to make more technological efforts like it. “It’s exciting and adventurous,” said Borjeson.

After the tour was available, Dr. Collins, who drove the bus onto the curb for the school, drove it back off.

“It’s really going to improve his [Salerno’s] vision for bringing education technology to the community,” said Collins.

Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or

Posted in Newington Town Crier, Newington News on Thursday, 5 October 2017 15:04. Updated: Thursday, 5 October 2017 15:07.