Although its work is behind the scenes, the Information Technology (IT) department at Gering Public Schools is essential to keep the district current with technology needs that always change.
Lionel Newberry, the district’s Technology Director, said his small staff of two is responsible for setting up, configuring and upgrading all the district’s computers, servers, routers and other devices.
The IT department has at least one or two spares of every model of computer used in the district. When a computer goes down, it can be swapped out with the same model, and the defective machine brought back for repairs. The department is also involved in a lot of on-call repairs during the day.
Newberry, who’s been in the IT department for the past five years, said during his time they have upgraded the Windows operating platform. That became necessary after Microsoft announced will stop support for the old system, after more than 10 years of use.
“We try to maintain equipment for five years and it generally stays longer,” Newberry said. “By then our needs may have changed, so we replace it once the warranty period expires.”
There are about 1,300 computers throughout the district and 22 servers to supply the needs of six school buildings, along with the IT center and the administration building.
For years, the administration building was located under the stands at Memorial Stadium, which was cramped for space. In the spring of 2013, new office space became available in downtown Gering and the school district purchased the building. The IT department was then moved into the old administration building.
Prior to the move, the IT department was located in a classroom at the junior high school. “Space is the biggest change for us,” Newberry said. “All of our equipment was in one room, including the servers, which can be noisy. This new building has helped our efficiency and we have some room to expand if we need.”
Newberry said the only draw-back is that this department is somewhat isolated from the other buildings, so students no longer drop in with questions about their devices.
This summer, a new wireless computer network will be rolled out at the high school. Thirteen access points have already been identified for the system.
“All the new technology seems to be going wireless,” Newberry said. “You can almost count three devices for each person, whether a laptop or a smart phone or a tablet. Our current wireless system can’t handle that much of a load.”
After the high school’s system is running smoothly, the wireless system will be installed in the district’s other buildings.
“With a small department, all our technology changes are part of a phased plan,” he said. “I’m always fearful the plan will change before it can be completely implemented. But the district’s needs change and we try to stay on top of them.”
Photos by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen - Lionel Newberry (above)and Zak Griffith (below) work in the Information Technology department at Gering Public Schools to keep information flowing smoothly throughout the district.