I’ve recently been dedicating my time to the creation of a NPO (non-profit organization) – Reboot our Schools – that will fill some of the technology gaps in our public schools, one school at a time. As this has been a slow and time consuming process, I thought it worthwhile to keep a log, around the obstacles (& the successes) I encounter along my journey, in order that my education can serve as a blueprint for others looking to follow a similar path.
Let me first provide some background, to see how this project came about. In volunteering in the San Francisco public schools, I became aware of the current state of technology in many schools. Having spoken with teachers, administrators and other volunteers, I realized that there was a systemic problem in the school system regarding how technology was being allocated and supported. Each school in which I volunteered suffered from lack of current technology, but the extent of inequality in this realm was baffling.
There is no consistency throughout the SF public schools as to how computers are used or allocated; some schools lack servers capable of providing the bandwidth required of a school, and most suffer a deficit in both number and capacity of actual computers. Not all schools have a computer lab, and not all classrooms have computers. Some schools have state of the art labs, kept up by the community and students, whereas others are lucky to have network access in classrooms, let alone computers current enough to play video. All despite living in the Bay Area, right down the road from Silicon Valley the global center for technology innovation, where computers are frequently more than one to an employee.
Now before going any further, allow me to provide some additional background as to how technology in the schools is allocated, because while blaming the government may be tempting –or more specifically the school district – it is not their fault either. Technology procurement was decentralized in San Francisco years ago. The district is responsible for ensuring network access and machine maintenance for machines set-up by the district. Unfortunately a network connection is of little utility if a school does not have the necessary equipment internally to access it. Likewise, at no cost to a school, the district will provide OS and software licensing for programs in the district catalog.
Prior to the decentralization, all schools used basically equitable equipment regardless of location. Therefore in order to address the current technology deficits in SF public schools, both individual schools and district technology administrators need to be actively involved to ensure the school has functioning technology; that this technology has sufficient network access; that regardless of the OS in place, support and licensing is available to schools needing computer maintenance.
With the knowledge that many companies require employees receive a new machine every couple years, and most machines if properly cared for will last as long as five years and still function at a reasonable speed, Reboot our Schools hopes to obtain donations from organizations and companies locally who are willing to have their machines re-imaged and distributed to schools unable to afford technology on their own.
By working directly with school and district administrators we hope to not only obtain and clean up machines no longer in use by their original owners, but also that any machine received obtains a district sanctioned operating system that will be supported throughout its lifetime in the school. By eliminating some cost to schools looking to update their systems, we hope to assist in re-allocating existing technology budge toward ensuring that their internal network needs are up to par.
So this is where it all began. Having identified a gap in our public schools I believed could be easily filled through corporate donations and volunteers – in a region where both are plentiful. Additionally, having been in communication with both school & district administrators as well as concerned community members, & volunteers, I believe the perceived obstacles faced by all parties are surmountable when approached from an external perspective not bound to the bureaucracy of either administration, and with no financial stake.
This is the first post in a series that will follow the trials and tribulations of my journey following my decision to attempt to address this problem. Following this initial introduction, my first post will examine those things worth considering before embarking on a major project, such as the establishment of an organization or NPO. I will also address managing feedback & how to not be impacted by naysayers but still learn from the difficulties others have faced embarking on similar journeys, as well as the incorporation process required to receive state and eventually IRS approval for non-profit status.
I look forward to your feedback and suggestions as I build Reboot our Schools, and share my experiences on that journey. For more information about my current project, please check out our website, where you can contact me directly either with questions at email@example.com.