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Plumbers help save Little Neck school’s computers

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"We had trouble getting into our programs," said Justin Muller, a sixth-grade representative in the school's student organization, which showed Avella the lab of more than 30 computers that had problems connecting to a server.

"We had to fend for ourselves," said Principal Mae Fong, explaining that the Citrix system on which the school's newest computers run was beyond the ability of the Department of Education's Region 3 technicians to service.

Under the restructuring of city schools, the old District 26 technicians who had been familiar with the Citrix system are now working in Region 4, said Fong.

Budget cuts also made the $3,800 service contract with Computer Logic impossible for the school to finance on its own, Fong said.

"It's the cutting edge of technology," said Assistant Principal Clifford Swezey. "In order to service it, it is expensive."

The students wrote letters to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and even Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates asking for help. But assistance arrived closer to home in the form of a $1,900 grant Avella secured from The Plumbing Foundation City of New York, a non-profit trade organization of plumbers, contractors and manufacturers.

"(Avella) said, 'The school has a problem. Can you spare a few bucks?'" recalled Stewart O'Brien, executive director of the group. "We said, 'Sure.'"

"We're always here to make sure you get the best possible education," Avella told students at the school last Thursday, when he presented the $1,900 check with O'Brien and foundation chairman Richard Farrell. Representatives from Computer Logic and the school's PTA co-presidents were also on hand for the event.

"We're going to improve the situation here," Avella said. "You have my commitment. Otherwise, you're going to hound me," he joked.

MS 67 planned to raise another $1,900 for the rest of the contract, the school's principal said.

Seventh-grade representative Ambrose Eng said the functioning lab "will improve our skills and connect us to a world of limitless opportunities."

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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