How good is school IT?

I called in a pro to fix my Hyper-V issue.  Two hours later we have success.  Powerschool is alive.  We lost 2 weeks of data but we can live with that.  I may actually be able to get that back.  What have I learned?  BACK UP EVERYTHING TO AN EXTERNAL DRIVE!  I should know this but I have had no catastrophic failures before this that a backup would have cured.  This is what happens when you operate on used equipment, untrained IT and a zero dollar budget.  About the only thing I have an influence over is the quality of IT service.  With my time and training level I simply have to be more neurotic.  Back to backups.

I can honestly say this is the second most un-boring job I have ever had.  The first was a bit too fatal at times so I love second.  If I am bored it is by choice.

This little incident does kind of highlight a point.  How well trained are high school IT personnel?  I know a pretty good number of the IT people in Montana.  Montana is a bit of a small sample but it is what I know and I suspect it is not that different from other small population states.  Most are former teachers that sort of wandered into the IT job.  None I know came from the commercial IT world.  All training is on-the-job, usually when trying to figure out a disaster.  Some of the school IT people I know are very good at the job.  They could easily go to the commercial side and perhaps double their income.  But they came into education originally because of something other than money and they seem to still have the desire to stay with it.  I just wonder if this patch-work school IT scheme is going to continue to work in the future.  I know my limited skills make me nervous when I have to deal with servers and Microsoft backup systems.

School IT is getting more complex and more expensive.  Budgets are not changing.  The incentive to be the school IT is somewhat lacking if viewed by a non-educator and there is absolutely no formal training program.  The stress levels are sometimes a bit uncomfortable, especially when trying to accomplish tasks that might result in major issues for the teaching staff.  I know of one tech that quit this fall because of his school board was convinced pencil and paper were all the kids really needed to succeed in school and therefore he did not need a budget.  (It took him two days to get hired by a bigger school district for more money.  There is a major shortage of school IT people in Montana.)  I know of another that has threatened his school board with walking out if he does not get help.  School IT is reaching the knowledge requirements of the corporate world.  School SIS software, internet filters, iPad management on a rather massive scale, multiple servers, wireless systems, BYOD, IP telephone system and really bad bell ringing software (long story), all on a voter controlled tax budget.  I predict bad things will happen.

This is one of those situations where I really do not see any solutions.  If schools cannot acknowledge the need to educate students in the digital realm, then they sure as heck are not going to admit that they need a trained IT department to sustain that non-existent digital realm.  Large school districts do hire trained IT personnel, but most schools, particularly in rural states, are not part of large school districts.  Most small schools in Montana, which is by far the majority, have part-time IT with no training.  I have not the slightest doubt that this situation is not going to change.


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