Tom Wroten, director of technology, sits in his small office, helping art teacher Patricia Kelly and Barbara Johnson, assistant to the head of middle school, with technological issues.
His phone vibrates. It’s an email from chemistry teacher Alan Beamer, asking him to fix an issue with his new Macbook Air. Thirty seconds later, Spanish teacher Patricia Portillo walks into his office with her laptop.
This is what Wroten’s work day has turned into ever since the school issued laptops to the freshmen, sophomores and high-school academic teachers in September.
Our world is modernizing and our school must modernize with it. That was the theme of our Feb. 14 editorial on the new “1-to-1” laptop program that will eventually pair every student in the high school with a laptop.
Now that promise is on the way to coming true.
But when we advocated for this program in the first place, we made the assumption that the school would prepare accordingly.
Laptops do not always function perfectly. Neither do iPads, wireless networks, printers or other technologies.
We assumed that the school would prepare for the hundreds of new devices by hiring staff accordingly.
We were wrong.
Right now we have 115 middle-school iPads, 68 high-school-issued student laptops, dozens of faculty laptops and printers, desktops in the lower school computer lab and library, lower school iPad carts and library laptops in the high school.
And how many tech staff does the school pay to purchase, configure and maintain these devices?
That’s right. Apart from summer worker Austin Walter and part-time helper Sarah Song, Wroten is the sole technology staffer at our school.
At Palo Alto’s Castilleja School—where a similar 1-to-1 program is in effect—425 students are served by an eight-person tech department.
Now we realize that our school has fewer students, but if the administration wants to put a laptop in the hands of every high-school student and an iPad in the hands of every middle schooler, major staffing increases still need to happen.
Granted, Wroten has the budget to hire a part-time assistant, but as we explained in our front-page story, he said that the time required to train someone who would be there only part time is simply not worth it for him.
Wroten does an excellent job—no one is denying that—but he alone is simply not enough.
The administration found the money for laptops. They found the money for iPads. And now it is time for them to find the money to hire people who can keep those devices working.