California Educational Data Processing Association
The DataBus - Vol. 36, No. 3
April-May, 1996

NetDay96 Success Stories...and Otherwise

Activites: Many school agencies enhance their connectivity. Good projext organization, a pool of volunteers and corporate sponsors were tantamount to their achievements.

Addison Ching

NetDay96 was a large success for many school agencies. Those districts and county offices that chose to go "all out" with planning and preparation for NetDay96 benefited the most from the day's activities. A common thread running through success stores points to a clear definition of what was to be accomplished on that day, realizing that in most cases NetDay96 could not possibly result in the development of a total networking infrastructure and connectivity for the agency involved.

Ann Murphy, a spokesperson from KQED, one of NetDay96's sponsors, speaks of the "huge success of NetDay96 in our California schools," and goes on to state that the NetDay96 web site has been updated with a lot of new information about the March 9th activities, including News, Snapshots From the Schools on NetDay, and School Diaries on each individual school home page.

"A few examples of interesting success stories located on school's diaries are Sir Francis Drake High--San Anselmo, Balboa Magnet--Northridge, Sierra Madre Elementary--Sierra Madre, Ivanhoe Elementary--LA Fairfax Senior High--LA, and Brooklyn Avenue Elementary School--LA," reports Ms. Murphy.

A straw poll of MIS directors and other technologists throughout the state that were involved with NetDay96 provided some interesting comments. Effective NetDay activity organization, volunteer recruitment and participation and support from corporate sponsors seemed to be the major factors for achieving NetDay success.

Bennett Kayser from Pasadena Unified School District reported that "NetDay96 was a huge success at Pasadena USD. Sixteen of our 30 schools had well over 200 volunteers to wire 5 or more classrooms."

He continued, "The volunteers included parents, neighbors, alumni, and staff and/or students from Pasadena City College and Caltech, and District staff."

"There were also volunteer technicians from JPL, Pac Bell, PacLink Communications (a Pasadena Internet Service Provider that offers English/Chinese bilingual Internet access)," said Bennett. "Eight more schools are planning to pull Cat5 cable within the next month. We had sponsors for 14 of our NetDay kits, as well as other tools and supplies."

Bennett's closing remark summarizes the sentiment of many technologists whose efforts with network interconnectivity have been given a jump-start from NetDay96: "I'm looking forward to NetDay97."

Santee School District in San Diego County took a different approach when deciding what their NetDay96 goals would be. That district is in the middle of a project to connect the district's administrative sites and develop a "sample" school whose network connectivity design can be replicated in other schools throughout the district. Realizing that site wiring efforts slated for NetDay might conflict with the district's overall plan under development, their NetDay96 goal was to install Wiremold and an outle t box in each of the district's classrooms.

John Tofflemire, Director of Educational Projects, reported that their NetDay efforts began at 8:00 on March 9 and by noon, installation of the Wiremold and outlet boxes was complete. "Santee District... installed wiremold and outlet boxes in 320 rooms. This was tremendous and everyone is now wondering when we will be on line," said John.

Skip Sharp, Director of Information Management Services for the San Diego County Office of Education said that no particular NetDay96 activities were slated for that office. "We've been having NetDay for the past few years," reported Skip, referring to that county's ongoing efforts to provide San Diego districts with networking and connectivity assistance wherever possible. That County follows the State's model for making available Internet connectivity and services to subscribing districts. In addition to direct connectivity for school agencies through their Intergate server, their overall plan calls for toll-free dialup access to be made available to school staff and faculty through strategically-placed modem phone banks located throughout the San Diego County.

Montebello Unified School District in Los Angeles County also had a successful NetDay96. "We were able to wire two schools," reports Larry Mueller, Director of Information Systems. "Bell Gardens Elementary wired two complete buildings, 6 classrooms, a lab, teachers lounge, and six offices," reports Larry. "They had about 20 volunteers, mostly from the Gas Company and Ambient Data Technology. The Gas Company sponsored their site.

"Montebello Intermediate School wired a twenty station lab in the library and several offices. They had about 12 volunteers, with Southern California Edison sponsoring the efforts at their site," said Larry.

Larry has already implemented Internet support services for his district. A Compaq ProSignia Pentium server running the Windows NT Server 3.51 OS hosts the district's domain name service, electronic mail service, World Wide Web site (www.montebello.k12.ca.us) and acts as the proxy server for the district's web browsing clients.

By contrast, some districts made the decision to defer NetDay activities to some future point in time. Philip Tsoi-A-Sue, Information Management System Administrator for Orange Unified School District in Orange County reported that their district had a few 11th hour calls from volunteers wondering how they could help and to see what the district's plans were. Phil reports that after consultation, the district's Assistant Superintendent of Education Services made the decision that OUSD would not participa te in NetDay96.

Another school district in Orange County, the Huntington Beach Union High School District, had a productive NetDay96 that resulted in some computers actually gaining access to the Internet. Wray Miller, the districtÕs Data Processing Director, provided a synopsis of their NetDay project.

"Our principals met with District personnel in mid-January to discuss Netday. At that point we had no volunteers or sponsors. We decided to concentrate volunteers at one site if we got any volunteers. Marina High School had a volunteer-works-in-progress under way already and we felt Netday might help focus attention on it and get it jump started.

"Throughout the last year, MHS had accumulated tons of old used computers, parts and printers. A lot of it has come from Rockwell and some items were purchased with the help of a foundation recently established. The goal for Netday was to upgrade the computers to 386's with at least 4MB RAM and establish a lab of networked computers for the English department. They wanted a place where students could go to use word processing.

"By the end of the day, with the help of about 70 volunteers, MHS was well on the way. They had 20 PCs networked with NT Server and Windows for Workgroups running Word 6.0. Workgroups, DOS 6.22 and Word were donated. We received a NetDay Kit from the OCDE (Orange County Department of Education-ed.) at 3PM on March 8, which we didn't use on the 9th.

"By 4:30 on Saturday, I looked at the NetDay Kit sitting untouched under a desk, and then I looked at all we had done, and I thought that putting in that NetDay Kit would have been much easier! However, MHS is thrilled to have the lab and it certainly is more useful than a few wires that go from here to there.

"On a side note, half a dozen workstations were hooked up on NetDay to the Internet via the District's dialup service at the District office."

Greg Lindner, Director of Information and Technology Services for Yolo County Superintendent of Schools (YCSS), provided a snapshot of activities at their county office, including some of the efforts they made to assist their client districts. "All-in-all ours was very successful," he commented.

"We were able to get 6 Netday kits donated which we dispersed throughout the county. Davis USD had several volunteers and worked on wiring 4 schools. Winters and Woodland USD utilized the day as a Technology Faire to show the public what their plans were and what they currently had in place. YCSS wired our Greengate Site. We had generous donations from vendors and several volunteers as well. If we paid to have the Greengate Site wired it would have cost us between $4000 and $5000 for all the materials and labor." Greg concluded, "So...yes - it was quite successful."

Elk Grove Unified School District (EGUSD) also enjoyed a great NetDay96. The Director of Information Systems, Charles Burns, summarized their NetDay activities.

"Elk Grove USD has set up a partnership with AT&T Wireless. On Friday March 8, 1996 "Netday96 Eve", AT&T Wireless delivered 5 Laptop computers, cell phones and cellular modems to Elk Grove High School. These 5 will be used for internet access from all areas of the campus and can be checked out by teachers for home use. The evaluation period of the efficacy of this equipment/service combination will be tested through the end of this school year, and then all equipment will become the property of Elk Grove High School. So, Elk Grove celebrates Netday96 with a wireless solution.

"Additionally, we had purchased some new hubs for Elk Grove Elementary School's computer lab and on Saturday March 9, UltraLink (from Roseville, CA) provided us with all the necessary connectors to convert from Appletalk to Ethernet. The entire lab was brought online with 10BaseT that day.

"EGUSD had over 50 people volunteer to work in our schools that day. Since our Telecommunications Upgrade Plan far exceeds the goals of Netday96, we elected to continue on with our fully funded plan and redirect the volunteers to other projects," said Charles, referring to his district's plan for classroom technology enhancement (see Elk Grove Goes for Voice, Video and Data in Every Classroom," The DataBus Vol. 35, No. 3 - May-June, 1995)

Oakland Unified School District enjoyed a great success, according to Gary Meissner, MIS Director for that agency. "On NetDay an amazing effort took place at 53 Oakland Schools," he exclaimed.

"We had 523 volunteers wire 325 classrooms! A really great day. Ninety-nine percent of the wiring was also terminated and tested. For many of our schools, NetDay marks the beginning of many long-term partnerships with parents, community, volunteers, and sponsors. We are going to do NetDay again in October '96."

That district's NetDay96 accomplishments are documented on their web site. Gary suggests, "Check our Web Site at http://ousd.k12.ca.us for more info..."

Overall, NetDay96 appears to have accomplished several things. Network interconnectivity of varying degrees was accomplished in schools of many districts, providing a start and impetus for future and ongoing activities, in spite of the supposed political overtones associated with the project and its perpetuators.

More importantly, however, NetDay was the catalyst to raise consciousness about the need for support from volunteers and corporate sponsors to achieve the goal of connecting classrooms to the information superhighway.

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