Springfield, MO

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A Conversation With ... Rick Green

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Tell us about Springfield Public Schools’ information technologies department.
Our department is made up of networking support services, customer support services, which is the help desk. (We) have 30 IT staff to support 24,000 kids, 3,400 staff and almost 12,000 computers in the district. We support application systems for e-mail, student information systems, the data warehouse, online assessments, special education, transportation, library services, financial services, (human resources) and payroll, Board of Education systems … and the ID badge software that’s used for students across the system. (Our) budget usually runs about $3.1 million.

What are some challenges for the IT department?
Having the personnel staffing levels to meet the growing demand of technology in the district. In our customer satisfaction levels, we run about 92 percent, so we feel really good, but our biggest number that is really down is response time, and (it’s) because we don’t have enough staff. Just dealing with the size and number of facilities is one of (our) struggles, because we have about 60 buildings (to) support. … Another challenge I have is trying to keep my IT staff trained to support all the new stuff that comes out.

What measures have you added to boost response times?
One of the things we did last year was (move) from sending a tech out to a school on an (individual) basis to setting them up in zones. They stay within their quadrants. There’s less travel time, and it saves money, because I have to pay them for mileage.

How do you determine what type of training is needed?
I took a survey of my staff to ask what they felt like the priorities are, and then I try to look at those things as what’s low-cost. If there’s something I can bring in who’s a vendor and can do a presentation or a little training for free, then those are my high priority. Those that require me to send (staff members) off to school and spend thousands of dollars are my low priority.

How does the district determine when to add new technology?
A lot of times, the demand is driven by the departments. The financial system was upgraded, and that was chosen by the finance department (and) we helped them implement the system and worked with them on the training. … We’re getting ready to implement a new student information system. That was my decision, but I had a committee that goes through and evaluate the current product (to) see: Has it reached end-of life? Is it still supported? How much longer will it be supported? If we bought a newer version or product, what efficiencies would we get out of it?

Tell us about the new student information system and other technology changes on the way.
The new product … is a fully Web-based product. The old system has a server at every school … having to upload each night into one server at the district office, and we had to crunch all that data, which took several hours. The new system is one database, one server and it’s all Internet-based. …  It’ll still have the same parent access, but if there are multiple siblings, we’ll combine (them) so that you can see all siblings’ information. It’ll take us about a year to make that transition. We’re going to be putting Smart boards and projectors in every classroom for the next couple of years (and) we’re using NComputing, (which) takes one PC and makes four stations for students, and each one runs a separate session.

Which types of new technology do you find most useful?
Any kind of data phone that can send and receive e-mail. I’ve got my calendar, I can get on the Internet. … This, to me, is the technology that’s going to be important to the classroom, because it doesn’t require a wireless network infrastructure in the building … and it works everywhere. I really believe in the future, you’ll be able to use (data phones) for textbooks, e-mail, Internet.
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