California Educational Data Processing Association
The DataBus - Vol. 36, No. 2
February-March, 1996

NetDay96--Another Perspective

Project: Success will be largely determined by how well districts are prepared for it.

Mamie Starr, Coalition for Adequate School Housing

"Be careful what you ask for, you might get it" is a cliche that seems to have increasing applicability in the school facility arena. So, you wonder, what on earth did we ask for that is now a portending problem? Simply, more technology in our schools--most specifically more kids on the Internet.

At this juncture I am sure that at the very least you are quite puzzled about why this should be problematic; and at the very most you are thinking about the implications of little Jimmy Smith in the school computer lab enthusiastically perusing the graphic inventory of a collection of pornographic art works, clearly without parental permission or teacher knowledge.

The issue at hand is somewhere between the two poles, with a fixed position depending entirely upon your perspective. What we are getting is an "opportunity" to have someone install pipes and wire in our schools on Saturday, March 9th. This is NetDay96 (remember, we are communicating on the brink of the 21st Century, words and phrases are written for facilitation on the Internet, not to please the lexicographers--there are no spaces in this name). I emphasize the word "opportunity," for it too has a bipolar context when you are talking about NetDay96.

For those who do not worry about details like an uninsured volunteer cutting through a school's sheer wall and a ceiling full of asbestos-wrapped pipes with a Sawzall on a Saturday afternoon the vision is clear--we'll deal with Johnny and his interest later--we're getting the Internet in our school. For those who do worry (or at least have some concern) about details, the vision is also clear - lawsuits when the volunteer is knocked off of the ladder by the gusher coming out of the severed water pipe; air-borne friable asbestos everywhere; walls that are no longer DSA conforming, pipe and wire that goes to nothing . .. and the list goes on.

For those of us somewhere in the middle the vision is like that out of my office window right now--foggy. And an old dichotomy rears its vexing head--how do you mitigate the operational and facility problems without diminishing (or stopping) the vision which is the essence of progress? We have asked for more technology in our schools and Internet access to enhance our educational programs. Now we have a potentially powerful opportunity to get closer to that goal. But what that will mean in each school depends on how each district ap"roaches the implementation of NetDay96. This brings to mind a time-worn conundrum. . . 'the cup is half full or the cup is half empty."

Mamie Starr is president of C.A.S.H., the Coalition for Affordable School Housing. This article originally appeared in the January, 1996, issue of the C.A.S.H. newsletter (Mamie's CASH Register Dissertation) and is reproduced here by permission.

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