Schools work to ease technology woes |

Schools work to ease technology woes

Six months after receiving a generally unfavorable report about its computer network and Internet systems, the Nevada Joint Union High School District is slowly making progress on increasing anti-virus security and improving communication between teachers and technology staff.

In March, a state crisis management group reported the high school district was lax in protecting computers from viruses and had almost no money or equipment to replace broken or outdated parts. The district was also hampered by a communication breakdown between the technical staff and teachers who used the equipment to track attendance and focus on areas of student improvement.

The district has hired a point person to help teachers use this new technology in the classroom, while creating a “help desk” where teachers can call on technical staff for hardware and software questions, and added two roving technicians to help teachers fix problems on the spot.

Teachers are being instructed to use PowerPoint presentations, spreadsheets and database technology, said Paula Stephan, the district’s new instructional technology coordinator.

Curtis Smith, the district’s network systems administrator, has also instituted periodic meetings with teachers, school principals and the technology staff to discuss how to improve the district’s network and communication with teachers.

With each request for service, for example, teachers are asked to fill out comment cards on the quality of repair work completed.

The district has also created a bank of spare parts from older, out-of-service computers that can be used on an emergency basis.

The Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, in its March report, faulted the district for having almost no spare parts or budget to fix the district’s 1,300 computers.

“Technology is very expensive,” Smith said. “Spending public money has to be justified. Now we have that justification.”

Since April, Smith said, the district has had no significant down time. Last winter, a virus crippled the district’s computers – something that could have been prevented with the proper software and firewall configurations, the crisis report stated.

The district is using reserve funds to pay for the improvements this year. Money generated from the other districts that use the high school district as an Internet service provider will help pay for future system upgrades.

“We knew we were in trouble,” said Julie Hopkins, the district’s assistant superintendent responsible for technology. “We knew what was wrong, but we needed help learning how to fix things.”

Before December, the district plans to roll out a new Web site where teachers can post their class schedules and individual messages, Smith said. Parents will be able to send messages to teachers. There will also be a portal where clubs can post upcoming events and tournaments. The Nevada Union debate team, for example, is considering placing a debate forum on the site.

The district still needs to reconfigure the firewall to better protect the network and will be adding more circuits to better handle more technology capacity at Nevada Union High School. The district has also begun conducting twice-yearly audits with teachers to gauge their future needs.

“We’ve still got a huge job ahead of us,” Stephan said.

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