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US General Chat Thread, A techies life in a US school in United States (US) Specific Forums; We often hear about techies roles in UK schools, I'd be interested to hear from our US colleagues a bit ...
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    Gibbo's Avatar
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    A techies life in a US school

    We often hear about techies roles in UK schools, I'd be interested to hear from our US colleagues a bit about their schools, the age range taught, what kind of equipment you use, what kind of problems you encounter and so on.

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    Life is here

    Hello,

    I love this site. I would love to share the adventure and what we have in my school system.

    My school district has 13 schools, and 5 various other administrative sites. We are geographically a very large district. I think we have something like 45 miles between our furthest sites.

    In our county we have roughly 3500 computers. Just like everyone else we are ridiculously understaffed. I have 2 techs that work with me and we must take care of all 3500 computers and tons of individual software. I have to manage all network devices, servers, and user accounts, web pages, work management, project planning and still try to help out with the work orders as I can. Also we work for our district. I am really fighting to get us a tech at our larger school. The travel alone takes up most of our time.

    This year we put in over 150 smart boards and projectors. We have tried 3 different interactive white boards and really like the Smart boards over any of them. We are especially looking forward to the new smart board update.

    In our elementary school, and special education classrooms we like to use interactive white boards. In our middle schools and high schools we like to use Interwrite Tablets.

    By this time next year about 85% of our classrooms will have projector and some sort of interactive board, as well as classroom responders.

    We run Windows XP, on all of our systems and Server 2003 on all servers. We are currently using office 2003, and are about to upgrade to 2007 this summer. We are very hesitant before making changes like this.

    Each summer we hire about 10 kids to help us do preventive maintenance like clean, and reimage all computers in our district.

    When I started here 3 years ago, we had a very bad team(Not their fault were just promoted from within and had no clue about the job they were taking). Since then we have cleaned the office out and I now have 2 new team mates who I couldnt do it without.

    When I first started, we couldnt do wrong. I would fix something that had been broken for over a year and people would jump and praise my name. Now when we fix things the next week, we are cursed for not being there earlier. My work day is supposed to be from 8:00 am - 4:00pm, most days I work till at least 5:00. However, at least once a week I work until 8:00 pm. I am sure many people can relate to the feeling that no matter how hard you work your always behind.



    However, with all that said I love my job. I worked as a video game programmer before taking this job and I just couldn't stand the thought that I was working so hard to make someone else a ton of money. Now I make a good bit less than I did then, but the thought that my job has more meaning is what inspires us.

    I just realized how huge of a post this is but I wanted to give some details about things. I would love to compare things with you guys.

    For some more info on our county, we had a magazine do an article on us a year ago or so:
    Curriculum-Based Reform :: West Virginia : July 2007 : THE Journal

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    AngryTechnician's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by itschad View Post
    When I first started, we couldnt do wrong. I would fix something that had been broken for over a year and people would jump and praise my name. Now when we fix things the next week, we are cursed for not being there earlier.
    Victim of your own success! It's always the way, once you raise the expectations of users, there's no going back.

    You are managing an awful lot of equipment for just 3 people; we have a 4-man team managing a single site with a tenth of the workstations you have, though we may be atypical compared to others in the UK. Nonetheless, I think you definitely deserve your extra tech.

    I'm always interested in hearing what things are like over there; my wife is from Maryland and we are planning to emigrate back to the states at some point.

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    Life here in New York

    Hello All.

    Well let’s start by saying I am one of two techs for two different districts. 1st school is a window environment with over 500 machines, two servers running DC, DHCP and DNS. This district is a central campus and everything is within walking distance. Switches and Routers are either the dread CISCO or 3COM. The 2nd school in the other hand is a novell NetWare network. 4 different building furthest is 20 miles away. T1 backbone to all schools. A mixed variety of machines which all seem to have issues. CISCO routers and switches and plan to put in new Cisco wireless.

    Anyone have problems with Cisco wireless only reason I ask is we have a slow network as a starting point and they think a wireless network well fix the issues. My on the other hand have a lot of issues with this and think the infrastructure should be upgrade before the wireless.

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    Life in Central Pennsylvania

    I am the Network Admin for a small district in central Pennsylvania. We have about 2000 kids (Pre-K through 12) and 225 staff in 2 buildings thankfully in a campus, so no travel. Total system count is about 1250 computers, roughly 800 desktops and 450 laptops - all Windows XP. Fifteen servers (physical...about 25 when you include virtuals) running 2003/2008. Network is primarily Nortel/3Com, but I am moving toward HP. The buildings have 24 pair of fiber running between them so no WAN issues. I have about 175 3Com (Trapeze) APs off of two WX4000 switches for wireless. Outward facing we have 100MBs MPLS fiber, with 16MBs internet, 4 MBs Internet 2, and the rest dedicated for a statewide educational network which is in development.

    My department consists of myself, a comp/av technician, and two lab aides. Our district also has a full tech coach who works on tech integration/in-service and works closely with me. I'm his pseudo-manager; but he technically is still an elementary teacher (1 course- LEGO Robotics, lucky guy).

    I generally put in a 50+ hour work week during the school year; usually much more in summer as we rush to re-image all the labs, recycle old stuff and deploy new equipment. I'm in the same boat as everyone else...if it has a plug or batteries, it's my responsibility to buy/fix/replace it. I'm primary software support/DBA for the financial systems, SIS, transportation, food-service, library, nursing, etc. I also have a bunch of in-house stuff that I wrote and maintain. We are also the district's AV department.

    Major projects I'm currently working on include replacing our SIS as our existing SASI system has been end-of-lifed. We have ongoing projects with the Pennsylvania's data warehouse implementation and Classrooms for the Future initative which is trying to provide a laptop per desk in every high school four-core classroom.

    The job is stressful but I do enjoy it (most days) and I have a great team of people that I work with.

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    FN-GM's Avatar
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    It seems that in the USA the county look after all IT in schools, do any of the schools have there own IT staff?

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    grdrager's Avatar
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    From my experience, IT in US public schools tends to be managed at the district level. Some schools (especially in larger districts) will certainly have dedicated IT staff. Building level administrators will have varying levels of control over budget/platform/software selections depending on the degree of control asserted by the central office and the overall structure of the district.

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    tmcd35's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grdrager View Post
    From my experience, IT in US public schools tends to be managed at the district level. Some schools (especially in larger districts) will certainly have dedicated IT staff. Building level administrators will have varying levels of control over budget/platform/software selections depending on the degree of control asserted by the central office and the overall structure of the district.
    Ahhh, I get it now - so THAT'S how BSF works!

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    Dos_Box's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FN-GM View Post
    It seems that in the USA the county look after all IT in schools, do any of the schools have there own IT staff?

    Not county level, but think of our 'cluster' level.

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    Yeah, I think things are slowly moving in the direction of technicians per school in my area. However, alot of states have went there. Its amazing to me that we were one of 2 states to get an "A" in technology rankings, and my district is in the top 3 in our state but yet I only have myself and 2 technicians for 16 sites......

    However, they will eventually get it all figured out. I hope!

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    We have a director and 1.5 techs in our district. We have about 1800 students, 200 staff and about 1000 Windows PC's, all located in about 6 or 7 different buildings.

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    All I can say is... thank the lord for VNC.

    I'm in a small surbuban district in NJ. 2 Elementary Schools, Admin Office and High School/Middle School Combined Bldg.

    Roughly 2000 enrollment, 750 or so desktops, not many laptops maybe 20 for staff.

    It's just me and a Network Admin who unofficaily serves as a director, (has the pay but not the title)

    We also have a "tech coordiator" (teacher) for each building. They help out when they can , but we really need at least a part time dedicated tech for each building. The teacher's knowledge is limited and they dont' have the time.

    We're upgrading our bandwidth this year to 10 Megs out to the net and 10 between the buildings.

    Also looking at Citirix Xen Server and virtualitzing.

    IT also manages a 1000 seat performing art center, (lighting and sound) (new facility) It has it perks but can get stressfull.

    And yes, we're understaffed.

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    I'm from a medium sized school district. How these things break up vary from state to state. Here, most towns are their own district. There's a few "regional" districts that combine a few rural towns into a singular school system.

    We have 5 elementary schools, 1 middle school and 1 high school. We have approx 1,200 computers district wide. We have 4 IT staff members. The IT Director, and 3 other staff members, including myself. We all do just about everything and help each other out. Currently my "HQ" is at the middle school.

    Each of the other 2 staff members primarily service a level (elementary, high school). Here we have 5 servers, DC, File, "Updating", Application and imaging. We are connected to the high school via a frame relay over a T-1. The high school is connected to an OC-3 line the town has. The elementary schools are all connected via DSL lines which are also relayed into our network.

    Internally here, the middle school is fairly well done in wireless. The whole building is covered, there are a few low signal spots (working on it). We use all procurve switches internally. Each floor segment connected by 1Gb fiber. I just finished replacing older Intel switches with ProCurve and upgrading all backbone connections to 1Gb. Here we service about 230 PCs/Laptops. That is where I love the FOG imaging server. "Here, image this PC/Lab". Though we infrequently re-image computers, mostly because software requirements change infrequently.

    Our high school is where all the action is at. Part of the reason I service the MS is so I can help out on the bigger tasks at the high school more often. There we're doing the same thing with ProCurve switches. Recently obtained a beefy server to consolidate servers into VMs. Of course most standard servers like the MS only including the Exchange server, library catalog/circulation server, student management database server (student data, grades, etc) among other things.

    Since I got there, things have improved a lot in terms of getting out of being outdated.

    Surprisingly, I wouldn't say we're extremely understaffed. Though, like above, praise happens, followed by, "why can't you do that right now?" looks. Support is only ONE of my responsibilities. They're used to the old way.

    Some of our bigger challenges aren't really time, it's politics and money. Many of our situations are not adequate for the tasks. Data center vented by duct work to the outside, electric, etc. Getting things you need requires ALL your cunning. Budget is small. Officially town wide our dept is still called "Data Processing". There sign on the door outside the MDF at the MS doesn't say "Data Center" or "Data Closet" or even "IT MDF", it just says "Server". Also it doubles as my office. Depending on where you go, technology is not overly important to the powers that be. It can be a lot of babysitting of users too. That's another reason we don't image much, change confuses people. Sometimes I'm jealous of the way it sounds over there.

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    Upstate NY

    I thought I'd add my two cents. I work in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate NY. NY state is kind of weird in that the state is split into regions (12 I think) that are called BOCES. A BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) is basically a way for smaller Districts to share resources. I work for the Info Tech Division of a BOCES.

    I split my time between two Districts. One is a small one (K-12 all in one building) with maybe 200 PCS. I am there one day a week. That District has their own Tech, so my job is basically to help him out with anything that he can't handle.

    The other four days I am in a much larger District, approx. 1800 students and 250 staff. That District has a Network Admin, an A/V aide, a Help Desk person, and a Tech Coordinator who does all of the planning and budgeting. I handle all of the Desktop Support, Hardware/Software issues/installs, image building, image deployment for approx. 750 computers. I also do some Network Admin stuff, and am getting up to speed on VMware as we are just rolling that out. So I am a little busy.

    I think the only way I am able to keep on top of that many PCs and users is that convinced the District to purchase some programs that have really helped me out. I use the Universal Imaging Utility in conjunction with Ghost so I have one HW independent image (down from about 20 images last year). I use Prism Deploy to push out any software that is not part of my base image. I'm not a sales rep for those companies, and I have had some issues with both products. But overall they have really helped streamline my work.

    We have pretty much the same issues as everyone else: budgeting, staffing, students causing mischief, staff who are computer illiterate, etc

    Back to work for now.
    Last edited by naturalbornchaos; 30th March 2010 at 06:33 PM.

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    torledo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    Ahhh, I get it now - so THAT'S how BSF works!
    I'm not sure so much that it's a BSF model, more along the lines of what many UK schools already have with their LEAs and some of the services they can and do provide.

    A large school district in the US is maybe equivalent to the IT dept. within an LEA providing schools IT services in a large metropolitan area.

    That's my impression, i could be well out.

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