Spring Axing

Posted by Tim Landeck on May 30, 2011

Every couple of years I see the lush, green field across from the picturesque, cliff-hanging lighthouse in my town brought to the city council for development.  Activists turn out in force and, with passion and voice, quell the development of this unique field for a few years until another developer sees the chance to triumph in the public forum, and the battle begins anew.

Like the environmentalist, our Technology Department never has the opportunity to trust that something is preserved forever.  This spring, as in so many others, the budget ax is on the upswing.  Faced with a dire financial situation, where can we chop into the bone even further?  As department heads scurry about like a recently disturbed ant hill, the question always comes up, “What does that tech guy do, anyway?”  The answer?  Whack!  The elimination of yet another K-12 technical position that is supporting site and/or district-wide access to innumerable resources.

What does anyone do? When I look around the district office and school sites, I see many positions that I don’t understand clearly.  What are their specific responsibilities?  What do they contribute each day?  Does my lack of understanding mean that the district can function just fine without these people’s daily activities? I don’t think so.

I am clear about the activities and productivity of those who report to me.  I trust that other department leaders also have a quality work ethic, are supervised appropriately, and do a fine job of overseeing their staff.

Unfortunately, when I deliver the repeatedly requested bullet list of technology department personnel job responsibilities and activities to my superiors, I know that the readers will not fully grasp the importance and significance of these activities.  If you don’t understand technology, you don’t understand technology; no bullet list will be sufficient to help you make informed decisions.

And there you have one more unique yet critical task of the technology department: educating non-technically minded educators and leaders about what we do.  Like the activists who fight to protect that green field across from the lighthouse, we must struggle to help our policy makers understand technology well enough to make wise decisions come budget time.



Staying afloat—and on course!

Posted by Tim Landeck on July 16, 2009

Queen Mary 2
Queen Mary 2

Times are hard.  According to a recent report, 48 of the 50 states are grappling with $166 billion in budget deficits for the coming year.  California’s share of that is at least $26 billion.  Districts are cutting librarians, music programs, sports, counselors, assistant principals, nurses, buses, and increasingly, teachers.  In California alone, over 26,000 teachers received pink slips this past spring.  With all of these cuts, how can the cost of supporting the technology infrastructure be justified?

Times may be hard, but times have also changed.  Today’s school district is nothing like it was 10 years ago.  In our district, for example, all of our computers are connected to the network and use the network to function.  People are saving and retrieving files constantly; network servers are hosting the programs that we access for student software, financial records, attendance, assessment, payroll—you name it, technology handles it.

Today it is virtually impossible for an office worker to accomplish anything without the use of a functioning, network-connected computer.  If the network connection goes down, it’s time to take an early lunch.  Imagine a bank today without access to its network.  It is the same in a typical school district office: everything comes to a screeching halt when the network goes down.

How can we not fund the positions that keep this technology functioning?  Is it realistic to think we can just hope the technology keeps working long enough to ride out the tough times?  I don’t think so.  I liken technology support to an ocean liner.  Cut the engines and for awhile, the ship will keep pointing in the right direction and moving quite quickly.  All too soon, however, even the QM2 will find itself adrift and out of control.

Let’s insist that technology in the schools be a high priority as we struggle to keep the engines running and our educational enterprise on course.