The future of school techies

This is off the topic of programming but is definitely on the topic of computer science.  I am the school’s computer tech (along with teaching programming and senior statistics) so when things die I am supposedly the fix it guy.  (That is what happens when you go off to Iraq for 18 months; you come back and are offered a new job because they hired someone for your old job.  Talk about PTSD.)  Being a small school (500 kids k-12) I am the one and only.  Wednesday the school email takes a digger.  It happened sometime after school was out so I was not aware of an issue until I get a call as I am on the way to school.  Being the IT genius I am I immediately rebooted the Exchange server.  No luck.  The next step in my informal troubleshooting protocol was to look in the Event Viewer for errors.  Found lots of those.  So continuing with my highly detailed informal troubleshooting protocol I called my local guru consultant.  He reboots the domain controller; email starts working for some but not all.  Two hours later we (OK, he) have things fixed.  For some reason beyond the pale of worldly DNS knowledge a bunch of stuff in the DNS decided it needed to go somewhere else.  “Where did it go?” says I.  “Beats me” says he.  A little quick rebuilding from the secondary domain controller and things were alive again. 

What bothers me about the whole incident is I could not have fixed the problem if my life depended on it.  I can kill most viruses, install printers, rejoin the domain, install an OS, and do quite a few general trouble fixing tasks but I am not a trained DHCP/DNS/Exchange/DC/Group Policy troubleshooter type dude.  A quick purview of the local school techs indicates we are all former teachers that are learning the job as disasters happen.  I took some of the MCSA certification courses a few years ago so I can sort of set up a new Server 2000 computer or at least read the manuals.  I know nothing about the latest and greatest version of Server, I do not have time.  But troubleshooting is way more complex.  How many schools out there actually have techs that are computer network/security/anti-virus/server/etc specialists?  And if they were good would they be willing to work for $33,000 per year?  There are major issues finding enough high school programming teachers.  Finding qualified school techs is going to be just as bad if not worse. 

The knowledge base required to keep a school up and running is just so broad that it is a bit over whelming.  Most professional consulting services are way out of budget and with school budgets getting tighter the ability to call in the expert is going to get too pricy.  Sooner or later (I am guessing sooner) the need for school techs is going to reach some sort of critical mass.   Will this result in a reduction of technology use in the school, a reallocation of budget to cover the costs of professional consultants, or some equally less desirable result?  As schools become more tech based (1-1 laptops, smartphone communications between school and students, Moodle, computers in every room) the need for an on-site tech that actually knows how to do more that reboot is going to be a necessity.  These techs will probably continue to come from the teaching staff simply because they like schools and kids and are willing to work for the wages.

I really cannot see a solution to the training issue.  Microsoft courses seem to focus on setup.  The basic Cisco course offered at my local VoTech teaches some good basics but then takes off to the Cisco world.  I am just real glad my consultant guru is an alumnus, the former school tech (he left the school due to the need for money) and a close friend.  Without him we would be toast.


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