Tech Support

Even in tight financial times, initial costs for new technologies are impossible to ignore. However, ongoing technical support is often under-funded in district budgets. Although the dot-com bust has made it a little easier for districts to hang on to qualified personnel, most districts still fall far short of the Consortium for School Networking's recommended ratio of one technician for every 50-70 computers, or one technician for every 500 computers in a closely managed networked environment.

Add to this the fact that teachers' needs for pedagogical support are as important for successful technology implementation as a reliable infrastructure, and many districts find that overall technical support costs are much higher than budgeted.

So what is a district to do? More attention must be focused on reallocating existing funds and reducing the dependence on grants and other types of short-term funding. Here are several approaches taken by districts across the nation:

  • Technical support surcharges. Whenever a site or office makes a technology purchase, the district adds a surcharge to cover ongoing costs for infrastructure and instructional technical support.
  • Annual technical support fees. Instead of a surcharge at purchase, sites and offices are assessed a fee per computer each year. Fees are used to pay salaries for infrastruc- ture and instructional technical support staff.
  • Site-based technical support. The district takes care of the network, but schools are responsible for hiring and paying for their on-site, day-to-day support. This often takes the form of stipends for existing employees.
  • Interns provide technical assistance. Districts form partnerships with community colleges and technical schools to provide student internship opportunities. Interns, working under the supervision of paid district staff, handle trouble-shooting, maintenance, and repairs, freeing district staff to offer more instructional technical support.
  • Student-provided technical support. Programs such as Generation YES (, Students Working to Advance Technology (, the Cisco Networking Academy (, and California's TECH CORPS( train middle and high school students to provide technical support at their schools. Advocates see this as a win-win proposal. Students gain marketable skills, and district staff can provide more instructional technical support.