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Chapter 9
COMPUTERS AND TECHNOLOGY

This chapter reviews the Dripping Springs Independent School District's (DSISD's) computers and technology functions in three sections:

A. Organization, Staffing and Budgeting
B. Policies, Procedures and Planning
C. Infrastructure, Software, Hardware and Operations

A. ORGANIZATION, STAFFING AND BUDGETING

The DSISD Technology Department, which includes a director of Instructional Technology and a director of Technology Services, report directly to the assistant superintendent for Business Operations. The director of Instructional Technology is responsible for instructional technology planning, technology budget coordination, managing communications systems [intercoms, bells and telephones] and the district's distance-learning program. The director of Technology Services oversees networking issues, e-mail, virus protection and Internet servers and provides general technical support to each of the district's four schools. The district's technology directors provide primary technical support for district administrative offices and secondary technical support for the four schools (Exhibit 9-1).

Exhibit 9-1
DSISD Technology Organization

 Technology Organization
Source: Dripping Springs ISD Administrative Office.

The Technology Department's improvement plan sets goals and objectives for the department.

With the exception of the high school, each DSISD school has a full-time technology coordinator to provide technical support, assist teachers with integrating technology into their lessons and maintain hardware and software. At the high school, the technology coordinator, who also teaches two courses, provides technical support to the school and maintains hardware and software, while the high school instructional facilitator assists teachers with integrating technology into their lessons. The district classifies and pays technology coordinators, who report directly to their principals, as instructional staff.

Technology coordinators are responsible for internally supporting all computer systems, both instructional and administrative, at the school level. Issues beyond the technical knowledge of the technology coordinators are directed to the director of Technology Services. If the problem is also beyond the director's scope of technical knowledge, the director contracts with an external provider.

The technology coordinators split their duties between instructional technology support and technical support for their school. DSISD compares favorable to its peer districts in the number of technology administrators. Eanes, Lake Travis and Marble Falls, however, have a higher number of instructional technology employees (Exhibit 9-2).

Exhibit 9-2
Technology Staffing
DSISD and Peer Districts
District Technology
Administrators
Network
Support
Technical
Support
Instructional
Technology
Total FTEs*
Eanes 2 2 3 11 18
Lake Travis 0.33 1 3 6 10.33
Marble Falls 1 0 4 3 8
Dripping Springs ** 2 0 2 1.5 5.5
Burnet Consolidated 1 1 0.5 0.5 3
Source: Peer District Survey and DSISD interviews with technology staff.
*FTE equals full-time equivalent employees.
**Three technology coordinators are allocated 0.5 FTE to Technical Support, 0.5 FTE to Instructional Technology. The high school technology coordinator is allocated 0.5 FTE to Technical Support only.
Note: Wimberly ISD did not provide data.

The technology directors manage a departmental budget, while school-based technology coordinators, in cooperation with school administration and the campus technology committees, manage individual school technology budgets. The district technology budget includes state funds, supplemented by special revenue funds. The state pays each district a technology allotment of $30 per student based upon student average daily attendance. The district uses the state technology allotment to purchase equipment and train staff.

For 2000-01, DSISD allocated almost 70 percent of its technology allotment on debt service to repay a $500,000 loan for DSISD's 1998 purchase of computers and printers. The district pays this loan with both technology allotment and general fund money. Given the current debt service schedule, DSISD anticipates that it will pay off the loan by 2003. After subtracting the debt service from the technology allotment, the district provides each school with $10 per student for technology purposes. The district uses additional general fund money for technology supplies, repairs and contracted services set by each school (Exhibit 9-3).

Exhibit 9-3
DSISD State Technology Allotment Funding
Purpose 2000-01
Actual
2001-02
Budgeted
Instruction $28,882 $33,180
Debt Service $62,909 $59,005
Total $91,791 $92,185
Source: DSISD Technology Department and TEA, PEIMS, 2000-01 and 2001-02.

DSISD supplements its technology budget with grant awards. DSISD received Technology Infrastructure Fund grants totaling nearly $400,000 in 2000 and 2001. These funds were used for additional technology resources and staff development. DSISD also participates in grant projects awarded to the Regional Education Service Center XIII (Region 13), which provides technology staff development resources and technical assistance to the district.

The district also received an E-Rate discount on telephone expenses totaling $10,000 for the first five months of 2001, with additional discounts to be received for the rest of 2001-02.

FINDING

DSISD does not provide its Technology Department staff sufficient training to support the district's computer hardware and software. The technology directors and coordinators provide primary technical assistance to district administrative and instructional staff. The technology coordinators help staff perform maintenance and troubleshooting on computer equipment and install hardware and software onto existing systems. If a particular issue or task is beyond the technical expertise of a technology coordinator, they typically refer the issue to the director of Technology Services. The director performs more sophisticated tasks such as administering the district Web site, installing cable lines to connect computers to the district network and maintaining computer servers.

The director of Instructional Technology and the director of Technology Services were former teachers in DSISD and served as technology coordinators at the school level. The director of Instructional Technology received a master's degree in Education Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in instructional technology and a minor in computer science. The director of Technology Services has a certification in computer science and a master's degree in Education. Each of the technology coordinators is a former DSISD teacher. (The high school coordinator still teaches two classes). Although the district and school technology employees have participated in technical training, a majority of the technology coordinators' technical training has been obtained through practical experience working with district's computer systems and interactions with contracted technical service providers and district staff.

District staff said that district technology personnel have not provided technical support on several occasions. DSISD librarians said that they have had to obtain technical assistance from outside vendors for their PC-based systems for issues that district technology personnel typically support. District invoices showed that DSISD contracted with vendors for computer setup, software installation and server backup services that technology staff said they typically provide and that are listed in the technology coordinator job description.

To ensure such tasks are performed correctly and efficiently, Technology Department staff members require a significant amount of technical expertise. The TEA Long Range Plan for Technology, 1996-2010, states that the "human infrastructure" of technology, the capabilities or proficiencies of those who use technical components is just as important as the hardware that comprises the system infrastructure. The Texas School Technology and Readiness Chart (STAR Chart), a tool provided by TEA to help school districts assess their progress with technology, recommends that each district strive to have one technical staff member for each 350 computers. The STAR chart also recommends that each district have campus-based technical support in addition to district-level technical staff. While the technology coordinators share technical support duties with the director of Technology Services, none of the technology coordinators provide full-time technical support to its campus.

DSISD's technology staff has taken advantage of training opportunities such as computer troubleshooting classes and classes on how to build and configure a PC. However, this training is not included in a staff development plan to address specific technical deficiencies.

Recommendation 39:

Create a technology staff development plan to increase the technical proficiency of district and school-level technology personnel.

DSISD technology staff must not only provide instructional support, but also must have the expertise necessary to serve as capable technical support. In coordination with technology coordinators, the district technology directors should establish development goals for technology personnel using the regional service center and other available resources. The technology staff development plan should provide technology staff development opportunities that address specific deficiencies in technical expertise, such as knowledge of PC-based systems, networks and software. The plan should be developed with input from district leadership as well as district computer users. Ultimately, the staff development plan goals should match the technology staff job descriptions.

IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1. The director of Instructional Technology surveys district leadership and employees to evaluate technology staff support levels and user needs. October 2002
2. The Technology directors evaluate technology staff for individual computer limitations and training needs.
November 2002
3. The Technology directors present a summary of their findings to the Technology Vertical Committee, which includes the district technology directors and the school technology coordinators. January 2003
4. The Technology Vertical Committee determines overall staff development goals and needs. February 2003
5. The director of Instructional Technology drafts a technology staff development plan based upon identified needs. March 2003
6. The Technology Vertical Committee reviews and approves the plan. April 2003
7. The Technology Vertical Committee presents the plan to the superintendent for review. May 2003
8. The superintendent approves the plan. April 2003
9. The Technology Vertical Committee evaluates the plan and revises it as necessary. Annually

FISCAL IMPACT

This recommendation can be implemented with existing resources.