Between piloting assignments for the Coast Guard, John Heath developed an interest in building computers. Heath has expanded that interest in computers and, since 2006, has been the Technology Coordinator for the Orcas Island School District. Heath is based in a small office in the Orcas Elementary School but also works with the high school and middle school to maintain and troubleshoot the 200 plus computers on the OISD campuses. School Superintendent Glenn Harris is the Technology Director and oversees the whole technology program.
John Heath is hired to work all through the year for 6 hours a day. During the school year he responds to any school requests concerning problems with the computers. Generally speaking, it is the software that may be causing the problem. There has been little trouble with the hardware. However, if something does go wrong in that department, Heath is a Certified Dell Warranty repair person. Because Mac’s and P.C.’s are put together so differently, there is a significant difference in the approaches to repairs.
If he needs additional support the regional Educational Support District is available to help out. During the summer he goes through each of the computers and inspects them and cleans them up to make sure they are ready for the upcoming school year.
John Heath is also responsible for overseeing the telephone system for all three schools and the district office. The system was totally revamped in 2006 and is running well. Since the change there has also been a reduction in the cost of long distance charges. “We have cut to the bone everyplace we can and still have complete service,” says Heath.
One of the biggest challenges to keeping everything running smoothly is that all of the computers go through 3 different servers. Because Mac’s and P.C.’s work in different ways, this can cause some difficulties. These servers offer central data storage as well as providing internet and firewall connections and it is a system the district has had in place for a long time.
P.C. and Mac desktops and laptops are used throughout the district and often they have different purposes. Many of the laptops are on rolling carts that move from classroom to classroom. This allows all the students in a class to have one-on-one use of the computer for a specified amount of time and then the computers will be put back on the cart and moved to another classroom. This has been an effective way to efficiently maximize use and accountability. These carts are used almost continually during the school day.
On-line accessibility and working with interactive programs are exciting additions to modern day education. The OISD is able to make this possible by having good internet filters for students to be able to do this safely. Some of these same filters are not available on home computers and Heath encourages parents to be aware of on-line activities. “Even if the student is accessing the same websites at home without filters they may get into some inappropriate content. Parents need to stay involved.”