So what do I do first?

I almost titled this post "Tales of a newb technology director." Today is my first day in my new job as Technology Director for my school district.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor on

I almost titled this post "Tales of a newb technology director." Today is my first day in my new job as Technology Director for my school district. No more teaching (except professional development), just technology. The BlackBerry has been ordered, I've finished mourning the loss of my remaining summer vacation (who needs 10 weeks off in the summer, plus vacations in December, February, and April anyway?), and I'm madly scrambling to finish a summer's worth of honey-do projects. So what do I do first as Technology Director (keeping in mind that this position hasn't existed here for about 10 years)?

A few tasks are no-brainers. We have 200 new iMacs that need to be deployed, users who have been stuck in Mac OS 9.2 land need training, and the high school and various administrators throughout the district need about 50 Windows desktops and laptops ordered and deployed (oh yeah, and we need to train all of these new users on Windows Vista). The migration to new library software and rebuilding of the servers at the high school that I was supposed to handle as the high school techie are still on my plate as well.

That only covers a small piece of my job description, though, and there are several other items that need to be in place by the start of the school year. First off, we need a help desk. To begin with, I'm going to keep it simple: just a dedicated email address through which all support requests are passed (and accessed via said BlackBerry as I'm swinging around the district) for delegation to various tech support staff (or handled by me as needed). However, on online forum through which users can submit requests, view resolutions to similar requests, and check the status of their support tickets is on the way.

The second is to evaluate the entire communications infrastructure within the district. Currently, there is no real connectivity between schools (aside from the occasional VPN tunnel), no centralized login, no centralization of content filtering, and no consistent connection to the Internet (T1 here, DSL there, ISDN here). Both Verizon and Time Warner offer slick integrated solutions in our area that should, in the long term, be quite a bit more cost-effective and robust than the current model. A more effective security model to go with this new infrastructure is also a must. This won't get done by the time school starts, but we need to be well on our way with a solid plan and well thought out requirements.

Finally, I have to get all of the principals, administrators, and tech support staff talking to each other. This, of course, means, committees, meetings, and the like, but really means getting people onboard with a new way of doing business. In years past, individual buildings in the district were asked what they wanted technology-wise. The would submit their requests, get a small fraction of the money needed, and buy a little bit of what they wanted. This haphazard approach never got the schools the resources they needed to effectively implement tech in the classroom and wasted money on purchases made by those with limited training in technology (it's the rare elementary school principal who can tell a Pentium from a mechanical pencil). A centralized approach of triaging and addressing needs district-wide instead of building by building removes autonomy, but after a few years should bring everyone up to a reasonable level of tech integration and support.

This says nothing of technology curriculum development, rewriting the district technology plan (currently a joke of technical jargon designed to merely satisfy a state requirement), or redesigning the districts' websites (a hodgepodge of sites put together in much the same way as tech budgets have been in the past). At least I won't be bored. Job security is my friend.

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