Friday, May 28, 2010

Moving on

The end of the school year is almost upon us. Having taught for about 25 years, my year is based on the school calendar, New Years day is in September (or August depending upon what state I am living in at the time). This is also the last few days working the job I have held for the past nine years. My previous length of time at a job record was four years, but we were moving around to different areas before moving to New York State. This is the first time I am leaving a job not due to a relocation. It is hard, and looking back at what I have accomplished here makes me feel as if I have a good body of work. The question is where will I be next year at this time?

Where I now work is difficult to understand, but let me give it a shot. In New York, we have educational agencies called BOCES (Board Of Cooperative Educational Services), where districts can pool resources and buy services. I am a BOCES employee, but I only go to the BOCES a half of a day each month, otherwise I am "in district". What that means is I am in a school district full time, as their director of technology. But not really, I am a teacher on special assignment (TOSA) from BOCES. What that means in real-life depends upon whom you talk to. I was hired as an instructional technology specialist, who was to train teachers and work with them to integrate technology into the classroom. My job description changed within of 2 hours of starting the job, when I was asked to fix a computer, I really did not know how to, but figured it out, from then on, the majority of my work has not been training, but actual computer and network stuff. Mostly I am self taught on these things, as when asking BOCES for technical training, I was told that it did not meet my job description, so they could not send me, while asking the school district, I was told that they agreed I needed to go to the training, but that BOCES would have to pay for it. It is amazing what you can learn by trial and error and more error, and reading, and researching and more reading.

What exactly have I accomplished in my time here? Looking back, I would say quite a bit, but remember in 2000, school technology was not where it is today. The school network consisted of a mish-mash of different types of switches, most 10-100, but several 10. The standard teacher computer was the iMac 500 or 5000 some of which worked usually. We had our own Email system, a rudimentary web page and a 56K dedicated network connection. My projects that first summer included setting up our first Project Lead the Way (PLTW) full of PC computers and a new high school lab full of iMacs . I quickly learned about setting up accounts on servers, network software, installing software, setting privileges on computers and servers. That was an intense summer. I managed to get set up and everything working for the beginning of the year.

Today the physical infrastructure is much improved. All of the network switches are gigabyte, the buildings and closets are all connected with fiber optic cable. Our network connection is also fiber, run to the phone company. We now have two PLTW labs, all of our elementary school classrooms have at least three computers, with two mobile labs available for use in the 18 classrooms. Each high school classroom will have new computers this summer, and a second mobile lab. All of the district classrooms have SmartBoards installed. We have a ubiquitous wireless network, a Voice over IP phone system, and a modern security camera system.

Then there is software. The student information system was unlicensed, as was the Email system, and most of the other software. Our offices were using Microsoft Works 2.0 for most of their applications, where the teachers were using Appleworks. At that point MS works 2.0 was no longer supported by Microsoft, but I had to make it work, because it is what they used. Bringing all of these up to speed was a fight, both with the users and the business office to understand that software is not free. We now have a good student information system, legal software and up to date MS Office software.

These were great leaps forward for the district, and I think I am leaving with the school having the ability to do just about any technology integration into their classrooms. I wish that I could have done more integration work, but it is difficult to schedule if the Email or network suddenly go bad and needs fixing. In the past few years, seeing the teachers needing less hand holding on projects makes me feel good about the work.

When I started this job, the superintendent was of the opinion that he hired competent people to do do their jobs, he was open to listening to new ideas and handed off projects with the understanding that they would get done before the deadlines. I felt my opinion mattered and I was making a contribution to the district. He made me feel as if I were a member of this community. He would treat me as if I were a district employee, and said that the only difference was where my paycheck came from.

Feel free to ignore the next two paragraphs.

A few years ago he was replaced by a micro-manager. I do not work well in that environment. Jobs will be done before the deadline, but my having to submit detailed time lines on the completion of these jobs, I feel was, well a waste of my work time. I know what I am doing and how things work, however micro managers like to question everything, and need to be taught what and how things work. They also tend to pick up on the latest buzz and what to implement whatever it is without knowing really what it is. For example we spent a few meetings talking about centralized printing, with me attempting to tell him we do it already. He had heard from others superintendents on how much money it saved. We already do it. I was to contact the tech directors from other schools on centralized printing, and you know what, we were well ahead of the others on that. We already do it. Finally it sunk in, that we already do it. Already.

I no longer feel a member of the community, and this has been told to me loud and clear. I am not a district employee, nor should I even act like one.

The last two paragraphs can be ignored

I still have a job. I will be teaching at our local BOCES. I am looking for another job either in school administration or as a technology director. I may leave the education field. Right now I am keeping the "new" job, but am somewhat disappointed in this move. I have a few applications out, and a couple of interviews lined up. I really can say I enjoyed this job, the last two years have been difficult, but it is still a great job and the teachers, students and staff have been great. Anytime you leave a job it is hard, I should be used to it as this is my sixth school district, but it never is really easy.

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. Thanks to my Personal Learning Network (PLN) for the support and suggestions in writing this. Thanks to my family for all of their support too. Something good will come of this, heck this is the first summer I have had off in several years!


samccoy said...

When I taught special education, I was hired by a cooperative and sublet to a school district, so I know what you are talking about when you spoke of having a foot in two boats.
I'm sorry this is happening to you, but you're right to hang on to the job. I'm a few years out of a similar situation, and I still haven't found what I consider a good fit for me.
Good luck! You have great ideas and a friendly style that will help guide you.

Kathleen said...

Reading your posts on the PLN have convinced me you will be an asset to where ever you decide to go. i am sorry you are having to go through this. I wish I had insightful advice, but about all I have is enjoy the summer and take each day as it comes.