Payson Unified School District (PUSD) needs between $2 million to $3 million to rebuild its technology infrastructure, Joni de Szendeffy, director of technology, told the school board at its meeting on Monday, March 25.
“If we don’t do something soon with our infrastructure, it’s not going to be of any use to anybody,” said de Szendeffy.
Most people prefer to see any money they donate to school technology go toward equipment they can see in the classroom said de Szendeffy, rather than behind-the-scenes equipment they do not see.
But if students and staff cannot get access to the Internet or move data around, all that technology is pointless, said de Szendeffy.
The district needs new software to run operating systems, servers and switches to allow increased data flow and a non-DOS based telephone system, she said.
“Our Windows XP is at the end of its life,” said de Szendeffy. “Support for that software will end in 2014.”
Not everything is doom and gloom in the technology department, de Szendeffy and her team have worked some miracles to keep PUSD students moving forward with technology.
She found a way to replace the main router.
“I purchased the new router using some contingency capital,” said de Szendeffy. “I felt it was too important and needed to be done — a 20-year-old piece of equipment that critical was pretty much on borrowed time.”
The job of a router is to send and receive “packets” of information over the Internet. Numerous desktop computers can hook into a router, which then hooks into a server that accesses the Internet. A router can also connect individual devices to a wireless network.
In fact, this year de Szendeffy and her department have expanded the wireless network, so students and staff with their own devices can access the Internet wirelessly, which lightens the load on the routers and servers.
“We have increased users in limited BYOD (bring your own device) and by adding 150 iPads to the district,” said de Szendeffy.
The incoming Common Core Standards plan focuses on both making students comfortable with technology and replacing paper and pencil tests with online exams. School districts around the country have started to allow for students to use their personal devices.
However, PUSD needs increased bandwidth and Internet speed to make those changes, said de Szendeffy. She hopes to do that next year.
The good news, de Szendeffy reported, is that the PUSD technology department, with monies from a grant written by the Mogollon Health Alliance and matching funds from the Fiesta Bowl Charities, will now have the equipment to connect to the National LambdaRail and the Internet2 through the University of Arizona.
The National LambdaRail is a high-speed network of fiber-optics available in 21 states owned by the U.S. research and education community that bypasses expensive commercial networks. The grants will allow students to access and download research, classes and information from public and private organizations, such as NASA, universities and research hospitals.
Internet2 mimics the abilities of LambdaRail. The network allows Payson students to access media libraries, scientific instruments like undersea sensors, videoconferencing for things like virtual classes, music lessons, or observations of everything from surgery to nature studies.
Yet de Szendeffy has grave doubts she will be able to keep pulling rabbits out of her hat to keep the school’s technology functioning.
“Spending money on technology needs to be a priority,” she said. “If we get any unrestricted funds, apply them to technology.”