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Infrastructure Your School Can Support

January, 2001
Mr. Arthur Holmes, Technology Coordinator for the West Bolivar School District in Rosedale, Mississippi ells us how his school district upgraded its technology infrastructure and offers tips on how he deals with the ongoing challenge of keeping the system updated.

" Today, each of the three schools in the West Bolivar School District has its own T-1 line and Cisco router and there are switches located throughout each school. However, this has not always been the case. Just a year ago, each school was using a dial-up system to access the Internet, and these connection points were only in offices or libraries - not in the classroom. With the help of the E-rate, NetDay, and our partners, WBSD now has a more sophisticated technology infrastructure.

There were 3 phases that WBSD went through to select the technology infrastructure that best fit our needs.

  1. RESEARCH: We researched various set-ups by gathering information from publications, web sites, and materials disseminated by various companies such as Marconi, 3M, Apple, Howard Computers. We tapped into the state experts and community technology experts to learn what other schools were using.

  2. ASSESS NEEDS: At the same time we were researching our options, we prioritized our needs and reviewed our overall technology plan as it related to our educational goals. This level of cross planning helped us determine the one factor that was going to drive the process - we wanted a system that would not have to be upgraded in the near future. Knowing that we had limited financial resources, we were looking for networking equipment and workstations that were robust enough to handle growth, but were also within our budget.

  3. FINANCING: Because financing was the biggest obstacle we had to overcome, we turned to the E-rate and NetDay for support. The E-rate helped us acquire routers, ATM lines and other equipment necessary to continue to build upon our technology infrastructure. Our partnership with NetDay has enabled us to seek additional grant funding, provided us with expert guidance on technical questions and has assisted us in securing in-kind donations. NetDay also helped us find partners that connected us with experts and equipment.

Along the way, we ran into some technical challenges. We had some old computers and we had to reconfigure them to match the ATM configurations. With help from Apple and Marconi we were able to resolve those issues very quickly. Our engineering partners have shown us how to solve these problems and have been supportive as other technical challenges arise.

Once we had built-out our network, we then had to set-up the tracking system, as required under state law, to keep records on the equipment. This system is an excel document that the District keeps record of and is checked by the State Department when onsite visits occur. This information not only serves auditing purposes, but is also a valuable tool when fundraising for technology as it provides data about the number and kind of resources in the school district.

Because technology is ever changing, it is very important that the person responsible for technology in the district is a reader and researcher. Here are 4 tips that may help others stay in-tune and on top of infrastructure changes:

  • READ about new technologies on the Internet and in magazines;
  • CONFER with other professionals who are in similar situations;
  • ATTEND national tradeshows and conferences whenever possible. The WBSD team regularly attends: National School Boards Association's Technology and Learning Conference, National Educational Computing Conference, the Consortium of School Networking annual conference; and
  • BUILD a coordinated effort with school leadership so that everyone - from administrators to teachers to students - understand, appreciate and support your technology infrastructure."

About the West Bolivar School District

The West Bolivar School District (WBSD) is located in Rosedale, Mississippi, a farming community in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. This small town of 2,507 serves 1,447 children of which ninety-four percent qualify for free and reduced lunches. The WBSD has been part of the NetDay Community Initiatives since the summer of 1999. NetDay chose this school district because of its strong leadership and its commitment to integrating technology into every learning environment.