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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Another school year come and gone~

 With another year under my belt I felt it time to reflect once again. As per usual, “Bush Sam” often takes a few moments to stop and recollect his actions when feeling as though a milestone is met. In this case it is the completion of my 9th year in educationally related fields.

As a refresher for myself, I think back to my earliest years as a teacher in Sulphur, Louisiana. I finished student teaching and was offered a position to teach Advanced Placement American History. What a learning curve! Goodness, I remember thinking to myself, “What have I gotten myself into?!” Every year since then I seem to start a new position or challenged myself professionally. Those words have become a mantra of sorts for me…

My next move was to Alaska in the summer of 2006, where I enjoyed 4 amazing years in one of the most bountiful and beautiful regions God ever created. Life was simpler, but the work was intense. I often found myself in the school before dawn and after dust and I am certain I averaged 10 hours a day including weekends throughout most of the year. Each year I asked to do more, teach more, coach more, or lead more. In the end I taught classes ranging from art, computer science, MS science, 3rd grade reading, government, all histories, and current events!! We performed mock elections, fund raised, worked as a team to solve 1000’s of complex local issues, and were visited by numerous elected officials. It was a blast, but it was tiring to say the least.

I left the Bush in 2010 to start consulting full time with the Chariot Group. The private sector was sexy and full of action. Everywhere I turned there were deals closing, training being requested, and travel events for me to enjoy parts of the state I never would have seen before! Altogether I visited 87 communities in Alaska, mostly off the road system, and worked with tribal organizations, schools, NGOs, and big businesses. Eventually I knew I had to exit the lifestyle, though.

Offered a coordinator position in 2011, I started with the Lower Yukon in January of 2012. Filling the role as best I knew how, the position quickly became one of on-the-job training to be a director. At 31 years of age, I doubted myself in many respects, but I chose to sign the contract and give it a shot.

This year has been nothing short of a tornado. It began with a lone Tech Director putting out catastrophic network “fires” like 20% of the school domain controllers failing simultaneously and 30% packet loss district wide. Soon I had 2 of the finest team members I could ever have imagined join me and we began cleaning up messes, making systemic policy changes, and rebuilt the entire department from scratch. Everything from wireless connectivity methods to hardware deployments was changed. We literally wrote the manual on how a technology department should be run (all 40 pages)!

We had our share of hiccups and set-backs, but it was a phenomenal year. Service providers eventually got their problems under control and users eventually began to trust us. I could not be happier with our performance in spite of it all. Now I wrap the year up with the busiest and most stressful days yet in my career. Opening two schools simultaneously, purchasing, readying, and deploying nearly $300,000 worth of new equipment while balancing a $6 million budget has stretched me more than I realized.
I think I am burned out though. I think I am tired. I think I am ready for the next challenge. This doesn’t mean I want to quit, though. Quite the contrary, I am ready to roll up my sleeves and attack the 2014-2015 school year with a renewed vigor. This response is coupled with the understanding that I must hold myself to a timeline now, though. With a date in mind (June 30, 2015) I can now identify the priorities and goals which must be met. Not just for me, but for my team. The students, staff, and communities of LYSD deserve my best. They deserve to be left better than where I found them. I aim to deliver the most functional and organized technology department this district has ever seen to my replacement in one year. I have half of the team I need to do it and 100% of the will to make it work.

“What have I gotten myself into?!” still sneaks in every now and then, but all in all I remain resolute and even happy with the anticipation of another year of adventure as Bush Sam.

I am ready.  I accept the next challenge with open arms. I am not afraid.