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Tech became my new career

May 27, 2012 - By Randy Tucker

Now it's time to give someone else my seat in that job, but I'll keep on writing and teaching.

The final phase of my education career began with a newspaper advertisement in the back section of The Ranger. Wyoming Indian School District 14 was advertising for a technology director.

My experience with CISCO, Tandberg and in building and modifying Apple style computers and peripherals, along with teaching teenagers and adults how to use Microsoft Office led me to believe I might be qualified for a position like this.

I called Fremont 14 and spoke with a man who would become a good friend over the next few years. Dan Hudson was direct and to the point.

"When can you start?" he asked.

No interview, no resume, just when can you get here?

Two days after our conversation, I began the daunting challenge of being a technology director. As my son-in-law Adam (who works in technology) often says when I ask him if he would like to become a tech director, "Yes, I just don't want to be a technology department like you are."

Being the only tech guy in a district of more than 600 students, 150 or so staff, with more than a thousand computers, around 100 switches, and dozens of servers was a challenge. A room full of newly purchased P's awaited my arrival.

The learning curve was nearly vertical for the first few months. The Wyoming Department of Education had a dirty little surprise for me as well with more than 250 reports required annually. I only had to do about a dozen of them but I had to submit and error check most of the others, and the unpredictability of the WDE data collection in 2005 left a lot to be desired.

A pleasant surprise in the job turned out to be the 33 mile commute each morning and afternoon. "Windshield time" as many call it often gives you the opportunity to let your mind wander just long enough to lock onto a solution to a problem that drove you nuts the night before.

The job was a challenge, but I was able to work with some great people at Wyoming Indian. Phil, Owen and Scott were the first administrators I called friends.

In the spring I coached hurdles with Chico Her Many Horses and enjoyed it immensely. John Redman qualifying all four years for the state track finals was unprecedented for a Wyoming Indian hurdler, and I was proud to have helped my friend Alfred's grandson to accomplish this.

Still, the job wore on me after a while. The work never diminished. With such a huge volume of technology it required constant attention. Only on television is technology a seamless, errorless process.

Son Brian took a track and football scholarship to Dickinson State in 2005, and we found ourselves traveling the 571 miles each way on many weekends for football games and track meets.

An 1,100-mile trip on a three-day weekend can take its toll as well.

On one trip I met with the head of the DSU history department. I asked Dr. Meier the process for becoming an adjunct professor at DSU. In the process of our discussion he offered me a job to teach first- and second- semester general survey U.S. history.

The classes were offered online, and my itch to teach history was as strong as ever. I now rotate four different history classes online for Dickinson; the two general survey courses and two graduate level courses called Native American History and History of the American West. It has been a refreshing opportunity to continue teaching.

The demands at Wyoming Indian left no time for vacations or extended leave. When we traveled to Pittsburgh to meet daughter Staci's in-laws, the exchange server failed. I found myself in the annoying situation of trying to rebuild it from Pittsburgh on my laptop. If it weren't so pathetic, it would have been hilarious.

We returned, and the server was repaired in a few hours, but time was still a commodity I didn't have.

One afternoon, Rick Lindblad called me from Washington. We became friends when he was the principal and Brian's football coach at Wind River.

He had just taken the superintendent position at Arapahoe and needed a technology director.

He wouldn't take no for an answer -- escalated the salary offer until I couldn't refuse.

In July of 2009 I arrived at a district with nearly 200 broken PCs, erratic e-mail service, a vandalized student data server in total disarray, and an incredibly slow Internet link that crashed every morning between 8 and 8:20 a.m.

It was a mess. But, it was a challenge, and I had the chance to help design a new school building, something I had never experienced in my 30-year career.

The school is now a state-of-the-art technological facility with blazing infrastructure and equally fast speed to the Internet.

With nearly a third of a century of experience behind me, it is time to change careers again. When the only constant in your professional life becomes being surrounded by constant chaos, you eventually need a break.

Writing, a bit of computer consulting, grant writing and online teaching await the arrival of the magical rule of 85. Woodworking and a little farming should fill the hours nicely, and I'll keep writing sports and columns.

It's been a good ride, but it is time to give someone else my seat. Thanks to all those who helped and worked with me on the way.

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