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Creating a Full-Time Sysadmin Position at a School? 67

Posted by Cliff
from the making-a-job-for-yourself dept.
Old_Mountain_Man asks: "I have been working at a K-8 school for the last two school years, as a volunteer through an Americorps program called the Montana Technology Corps. In theory, I am here to teach teachers and students how to use technology, but because of the need and my ability to do so, I have become an unofficial Systems Administrator. We also have a contracted Systems Admin that comes in once a week, and works 30 hours or so a month. After this year, the Tech Corps position will no longer be available to the school, so something needs to be done to keep the IT systems of the school functioning. I am going to propose to the school board that they create an official, full time systems administrator position, and to hire me for that job. Are there others out there that got their jobs similarly? How do you convince a board that they need to start budgeting for this? They have obviously taken the plunge to getting this technology in the school, so how do I convince them that they need somebody here to maintain it?"
"We have about 375 students, and probably 40 or so staff that use the computers. We have a lab of 25 machines, workstations in each classroom, a laptop cart, four smart-boards, six networked printers, and six servers hosting files, applications, Exchange and an Isaserver. In all, this is about 170 machines that need to be taken care of. There's no way the contracted systems admin could keep up with this, while working only 30 hours a month, so I feel the school needs somebody here full time.

What I am looking for is specific information regarding how many IT support people are needed for this kind of setup. I wonder if there are papers/reports that break down how much support time is needed for different systems that I could take to the school board.

In addition any advice on how to shape my presentation to the board would be useful."
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Creating a Full-Time Sysadmin Position at a School?

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  • I dont know about your county and state but here on Long Island if you want a permanent position like that you would need to take a civil service test. You would need to apply with the county for that position. I am not sure about other states and counties though.
  • Leave (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:01PM (#18959851)
    For a few weeks... If they need a systems administrator, they should realize it pretty quickly.
    • Bad idea. It creates bad feelings, and also, it hurts them in terms of getting a budget together for (a) new position(s). Schools can't generally shift funding around at the last minute for things as significantly expensive as a full-time sysadmin + possible extra support staff.
    • At the beginning of the new school year in the fall
      if needed, but preferably immediately before the
      next years school budget meetings.

    • "For a few weeks... If they need a systems administrator, they should realize it pretty quickly."

      I've been working as a system administrator and consultant for quite a few years and I can say something: if by him leaving for a few weeks they "know" they need him, that's because they don't want him.

      You know a system administrator is doing his work properly in just the opposite: he can leave for a few weeks (even months) and nobody will notice. Certainly no new goals are achieved, but what's currently deploy
  • Well At my last job we had that many comps and I was the only one doing the job. I think a System admin and a lower comp tech should be able to handle it just fine.
  • by eln (21727) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:02PM (#18959873) Homepage
    That's a fairly small school. They already have a roving sysadmin, which seems like the right approach for a budget-strapped district with such a small number of machines per school. If the roving sysadmin is not able to handle the load, propose that they hire a second roving sysadmin for the district. I don't think you'll get very far offering to work full time as a sysadmin for just one small school.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sumdumass (711423)
      One full time sys admin is a drop in the budget for a school of that size. They can save on paper waste and recoup his salary along with benefits. And if he takes on more schools on the district, there is even more opportunity.

      With benefits and all, His expense won't be more then $100,000 and the services he provides easily equal more then the addition of one extra teacher. These benefits are making sure the Schools computers are up and running so the secretaries can be more efficient, the teachers can be m
      • by tverbeek (457094)
        What country do you live in? To a school of that size here in the US, $100K is a huge amount of money, and would have to be paid for by eliminating one or more other positions. Their end-of-year budget-burning tends to involved stocking up on next month's classroom supplies. To a school, IT is nothing but an expense, and the only way to justify spending more is to demonstrate that it is essential to the operations of the school, not that it will merely make the teachers more "efficient". Citing secretar
        • by sumdumass (711423)
          Things must be really different in the UK. First, the end of year budget burning consists of waisting products they stock up on for the next year because the value of the inventor get processed as unused funds. Further more, If they simply stocked up for next year, eventually they would have next years supplies paid for and end up stocking up for the year afterwards. No, the budget burning involves spending the money on approved items and then waisting it by giving it away or whatever. I used to get entire
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nimey (114278)
        $100k, right. There's a high school near me, about that size, who wanted to hire me as a tech/sysadmin for a lousy $20,000 per year a couple years ago. Schools don't have anywhere near that money for technology, which is partly why people like to whinge about how crap their school's IT and sysadmins are.
        • by Shadow99_1 (86250)
          Some schools do understand the need and will pay for it... I make ~50k/year as a network admin at a school... Which in my area ~50k/year is damn good...

          Also the 100k figure the guy above quoted is cost to the school including benefits and federal compensation (figuring they are required there to pay into SS and unemployment funds). I probably cost my school close to 100k/year when it's all taken into account...
        • by sumdumass (711423)
          The $100k number was considering Benefits like medical insurance, Employment taxes and such. And it was meant to be an extreme number as in the top end figure for his total cost. In reality, the salary would be much less and probably closer to 40-60k a year and the total cost to the school would be less too.

          And they have plenty of money when you consider their budget is several million a year. A small junior high school in my area has an operating budget of over 6 million dollars. A simple 100k total for so
      • by jimicus (737525)
        His expense won't be more then $100,000

        I don't know about what country you're in, but here in the UK there's no way someone would be hired as a sysadmin/IT manager/(insert job title here) in a school for that kind of money - not even in a relatively-rich private school.

        Half that, maybe. Possibly a third if they think they can get by with an IT technician with little/no experience.

        And if they go the technician route, there's a good chance you'll get someone whose idea of installing software is to march into
        • by sumdumass (711423)
          That 100k is everything total. Retirement, federal income matching, workers comp, insurance and other benefits, and so on. In reality the salary will be more closer to 40k-60k at the high end.

          And yes, I have heard of the same things happening. I even have done it myself in companies that aren't properly set up when I'm called in. But when I'm called in, it is usually because of some other problem that needs this to happen (like virus infections or crashed domain controllers with no backups).

          But do you reall
          • by jimicus (737525)
            Fair point, well made.

            TBH, though, IME most schools won't pay for non-teaching staff until some time after it becomes painfully obvious to all that they are required.

            In this case, it sounds to me like the OP is doing such a good job that it's not painfully obvious he's required. Perhaps the school hasn't experienced trying to keep everything going without someone on staff more than 1 day/week, or has done so with little major difficulty.

            At the end of the day, the best advice I can give is "explain how your
        • by Wolfrider (856)
          ...And the Better Way(TM) would be...? ;-)
    • by blhack (921171)
      I have to disagree with you. I am the I.T. guy for a company that is MUCH smaller than that school (we have 1 As400 machine, a windows server that does filesharing/printing/DNS/active directory, and linux server that hosts our Jabber Server, our VPN, an FTP, portions of our website and a few other sortof random things). All in all we have probably 80 or so networked devices. This doesn't sound like a lot, but there are very few days that aren't busy. Between admining our wifi network, managing the phone
  • blah (Score:3, Informative)

    by jesboat (64736) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:03PM (#18959895) Homepage Journal
    (First post, or am I slow?)

    Take a look at the Massachusetts state-wide requirements for public schools-- if you were subject to them, you'd require at least one (maybe even two) full-time sysadmins per that many students (plus a few other people too). You could cite that as documentation for the validity of your proposal.
  • by HTMLSpinnr (531389) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:04PM (#18959911) Homepage
    If you're working in a corporate environment, most schools and gov't institutions tend to pay less, and on a sliding scale that typically has a cap.

    While you're creating the position from scatch, they may reference other districts or institutions to determine what they should budget. There's also the risk if you asking too much and it just not being available.

    At any rate - it may require some sink or swim experience for them before they truly realize the need if it's like any other bureaucracy. Unless the powers that be are already somewhat technology savvy, they'll likely fail to see this with any but the best prepared amount of discussion. Inclusion of facts and costs for each decision branch would likely be very helpful.
  • Fairfax County (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sickspeed6 (1057634)
    I just graduated from a high school in Fairfax. for a school with about 2400 students, smart boards, projectors and at least 1 computer in every room, multiple mobile laptop labs with 25 or 50 laptops in them, and computer labs, we had 2 full time tech people, one for software/network support, and one for other stuff. Plus we had student techs who would actually do the work outside of the office. finally we had county support for hardware problems and wireless fixes. so, figure on one full time employee
  • by JordanL (886154) <jordan.ledouxNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:06PM (#18959939) Homepage
    I work in a large school district. Large enough that it has a central IT department, (which is where I work).

    The closest position here to what your describing is what we call a "Site Technology Coordinator", who we have at most high schools and middle school that deal with most of the stuff our actual sys admins don't have time to deal with. (We moved the printer without telling the WAN team and now we can't print?)

    First, for a school of around 400 or so, you shouldn't need more than one full time technology assitant, if you have the tools to properly manage the systems. We use ZENworks, which obviously is overkill for such a small scope, (we have 50,000 students we service though).

    Our largest school has about 2,000 students and about 150-175 staff, and we still only have one full time STC. We do however have area techs as well.

    For your situation, the best way to convince a board is comparative analysis. See how other school districts or other schools fare, and what they do. Like us for instance. Your needed staff will probably total one full time Admin, and at least one part-time tech, (such as a TOSA [Teacher on Special Assignment], or teacher with extra responsibilities).

    If you need more info, e-mail me.
    • Technology assistant sounds so much like 'administrative assistance'. I bet the pay is probably not too great.
  • by ReverendLoki (663861) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:07PM (#18959963)

    Seems to me one of the best things you can do is explain exactly how much technical support they have right now. List out all of the duties you are performing and give ballparks for how many hours you spend on each any given week or month. List separately what the traveling SysAdmin's duties are, and hours devoted to each. For good measure, give a couple of common emergency scenarios, and what it would take to dig out from under them. Remind them that they soon won't have anyone doing your set of tasks. You're also going to have to give an idea how much someone filling that job can expect to ask for compensation, of course keeping in mind that there is a salary gap between the academic and the corporate world. Still, quote both ranges.

    Having never made a presentation like this to a school board, I can't give you much advice as far as format goes, I'm afraid. But as far as content goes, it sounds like you've got a good start on it already. Hopefully you'll at least convince them to increase their staff, if not create a full time position. Maybe consider alternative setups - can they get by with a part time SysAdmin, and a full time Asst. Sysadmin, or Operator type position at lower pay?

    Good luck with your endeavors...

  • There was a teacher at my wife's school that did something similar to that. The school applied for a technology grant. With that money, they were able to purchase 3 roaming laptop labs (one for each grade 6 - 8) and projectors and some other equipment. Also, as part of the grant, this teacher moved into a support role for the equipment. He would teach teachers how to use the equipment and help out in the classroom when they wanted to use it. Down side is that grant money runs out. The teacher is no lo
  • by AkumaKuruma (879423)
    the school system i used to work for had it solved pretty smartly. the bulk of the elementary schools were divided between admins. about 4-5 schools were the responsability of one admin from the central office. if work became heavy he could pull a fellow admin from another set of schools to help cover/assist. for bigger elementary schools, all middle and high schools, they have a dedicated on site admin. back to the multi-school admins. they usually had someone onsite, usually a media librarian, who had ba
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:15PM (#18960091)
    I work as the Computer Tech for a school district in South-East Michigan. We currently have about 1.0 FTE for each 180 computers but we are laying off people for next year. In trying to investigate what other districts are doing it is clear the choice is based on what they can afford - not what would be useful or ideal.

    A couple notes
    -Most technology plan resources recommend 1 FTE for every 100-200 computers, or 1 FTE for every 300-500 closely managed computers (Thin clients for instance)

    -There are clear trade-offs in terms of response time and tech support. Document the current repair turnaround time, and number of failures and compare it to what would be expected with different levels of staffing. Let the elected school board decide if it is worth taking funding from teachers to get computers fixed faster

    -It is possible to survive with much less support if you are REALLY WILLING as a district to reduce the flexibility of computer us (for instance no support for use other than office or a browser, no non-district software installed, using things like deep-freeze, etc
  • At my highschool of approx. 1200 students, the admin also taught several classes -- CAD being one of them, IIRC. He also lead the school robotics team, and a class in which he had students help with IT tasks around the school.
  • by kestasjk (933987) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:22PM (#18960209) Homepage
    If my high school sys admin was a benchmark for success you should try to get in the way of education as much as possible. If someone is programming in Brainfuck go ahead and remove the scripts and lock their account for a week even though you only saw the naughty word because you were searching for it.

    The moment anyone does something that violates the terms of use (even something completely petty that doesn't affect anyone) find out which class and person is doing it, sprint to the class, sneak in quietly (wearing camouflage gear), tip-toe behind the person offending the petty rule, and scream in their ear while they're doing whatever it is they shouldn't.
    Bonus points if you put your hand on their shoulder, and they turn around and see you glaring into their eyes with disgust just as you start to scream at them.

    If you can demonstrate these skills to the board you're in; technical abilities don't matter in my experience.
    • by archen (447353)
      Funny but true to some extent. I work in a nice corporate environment. The rules are all pretty much defined. If you have problems you go talk to ADULTS. In contrast to a school with an virtually unlimited supply of kids trying to get around every security you have in place - and an entire new crop every year with random ones leveling up skills at a fearsome rate. And in the end if they do manage to view some porn? Now the parents throw a fit, the school board is talking about why this happened, etc.

      W
  • Money (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rinisari (521266) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:26PM (#18960281) Homepage Journal
    You're going to have to convince them that they're hosed without someone taking care of these machines. You're also going to have to see if they have the money in their budget to hire someone full-time, and if you can afford what they're willing to pay.

    Starting talking to board members individually. Invite them to see the technology infrastructure and make sure they know how many man-hours it takes to maintain the system. Don't just leave if they don't appear to be listening to you. It's times like these that a sudden illness or death in the family would really come in handy (OK, so that's a bit morbid).

    Write a proposal for the position and a justification for it. If you live in the district, they're somewhat obligated to at least listen to you. Just take your time and work through the system.
  • You just need to buddy up with one or more members of the school board. That's the only way things get done in a public school system.
  • by MTDilbert (7660) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:37PM (#18960481) Homepage
    Think about the situation here in Montana:
    1. The legislature didn't get a budget out yet.
    2. There are still serious questions about school funding; who's paying for what and how much, and if they way they're doing it is constituational
    3. Schools are having a tougher time passing levies for operations, so they're really going to be touchy on the bottom line
    I'm not saying it can't be done; just that it's going to be a seriously uphill battle.
  • Wrong approach (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:38PM (#18960519) Homepage
    How do you convince a board that they need to start budgeting for this?

    You don't. You watch the tapes of the old board meetings, figure out which board member is most likely to have a clue what you're talking about and then you convince her directly. Bringing along the rest of the board is then her game in which you're just a player.
  • Paint a Picture (Score:3, Insightful)

    by W. Justice Black (11445) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:39PM (#18960529) Homepage
    Disclaimer: I'm the UNIX/Linux SA for an engineering college.

    As with presenting to many other types of layfolk, it's usually best to paint a picture of exactly what it is that the person would do and why.

    First: What is the before and after picture regarding what you've been doing so far? What improvements in the education experience have you enabled in your time there?

    Second: What exactly are the ramifications of not having someone in your position? What falls apart and what gets lost?

    Third: Who will vouch for that among the existing teachers/staff?

    If you can say something like:

    "Before I arrived, there were limited services available in area X. As a result, the educational mission was degraded because the students/teachers/staff couldn't do Y. By virtue of my work, Y is now possible and the educational mission is therefore improved in ways P, Q, and R (as corroborated by faculty A, B, and C).

    Maintenance is required to keep Y working, however, and without it Y would degrade to Z, which would have a catastrophic effect on piece J of the educational mission. In addition, as a full timer, I could also enable the needed piece W, which I currently don't have time to do, and we can (eliminate/reduce) the contractor time, saving $D from the budget."

    Wow. That was a lot of letters. To put it more simply, you need to put things both in context of the educational mission of the school (improving technical scholarship, easing the teaching of math, reducing the administrative headaches the teachers experience and freeing them up for more relevant work, etc) and reducing cost if possible. Show what has been achieved already, how that work is important, and how it will be wasted and useless if not maintained.

    In a very real sense, this position is a high-tech janitor or facilities person in the mind of a school board--a necessary evil (lest everyone be overridden with crap). The more you can make your case that crap is reduced and will return without vigilance, the more likely they are to make the position. As others have noted, saying "district L has one" would help, but ultimately the people on the board have to see the value you bring. If it's not greater than, say, additional Music or PE classes (or other non-core services), you'll have a hard time selling it.

    Making the position, btw, is the hard part. Getting the job is easier. Not trivially easy, mind you, but easier.
    • by LilGuy (150110)
      ..and don't forget to brush up on your algebra skills because you've got a lot of variables to solve for right there!
  • by davidwr (791652) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:43PM (#18960613) Homepage Journal
    Your own data is far more valuable than anything any of us can give you.

    Take the part-time guy to lunch and find out exactly what he does and how long it takes him to do it.

    Add the hours you put in.

    Then make adjustments for the efficiency of having one person do the whole job.

    This gives you a starting point.

    If that's not enough for a 40-hour-week job, make adjustments for tasks that are currently done by teachers that can be offloaded to you, as well as tasks that are not getting done that will benefit the teachers and students "if only we had the manpower."

    Finally, to short-circuit the question of "can we do any of this with volunteer labor," make a realistic assessment of how much work volunteers could do, and add in the cost of training and coordinating the volunteers.

    One more thing to consider:
    As a full-time sysadmin, you can also run a serious, skill-building high-school "computer club" and if you have the credentials, teach certification classes to high school students after school or in the evenings. Parents love this.

    Best of luck.

    By the way, the part-time guy might want the job you are trying to create, and the school board might just hire him for the position. If you two put your heads together and he gives you a good reference, maybe his other clients will hire you.
  • Background (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HoldenCaulfield (25660) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @03:20PM (#18961129) Journal
    A lot of people have posted about salary requirements and things. Please note that the original question states that he's currently an AmeriCorps member. For those who aren't familiar, AmeriCorps is a national service program where people commit to a term of service on a limited subsistence allowance. Most positions require 1700 hours for a year, and pay around 1000k/month, with the option of either a $1,200 cash stipend or a $4,725 education award upon successful completion of service.

    Anyway, to get back to the original posters point about how to sell the school board on this proposition, there's a couple things I'd suggest. First, try to get a champion within the system, whether this be a board member, school principal, a group of teachers, etc. Having someone else advocate for your cause sends a stronger message than you begging for a job.

    Second, prepare a report of what you've done in your two years as an AmeriCorps member. What was the status of the computer systems before you were there? Technical knowledge among the staff? In other words, tell the board what they'd get by investing in you. You need to convince the board what the value add of having a full time position is, as opposed to 30 hours a week. Whether you present it as what you add to the school, or what the school loses if they don't create the position, is up to you. Both approaches have strengths and weaknesses.

    Note that the contractor is a challenge here. You might burn a bridge if the board does make it into a full time position, and you get the position as opposed to him/her. In small town Montana, that could make things interesting . . .

    p.s. From your email address, I'm guessing you're in Bonner, MT. Having spent two years in Helena (one as an AmeriCorps*VISTA back before Katie was in her position, and Laura was the Tech Corps director, and the second as a state employee), good luck! It's beautiful, and Missoula is a wonderfully liberal city, but jobs, especially tech jobs, are definitely a challenge.
  • Just what every school needs, a "sysadmin" who knows that they're there short term, but who goes ahead and implements all sorts of stuff that can't be maintained after they leave.

    If the stuff won't work once you leave you shouldn't have installed it in the first place. Or at least you should have made it explicitly clear to your employer that they would be on their own if or when you left.

    Then again I am sure that you're also leaving behind complete and detailed documentation of all of your work?
  • My only advice is, you shouldn't be the one proposing this to the school board.

    Get the principal, a board member you know, or someone else already in the administrative tree to propose the idea and suggest you as a good candidate for the position. Most government offices are required to do an open search to fill positions. Getting someone already inside to start the ball rolling and work with you will help you avoid political land mines, any union issues, and the perception that you are just trying to creat
  • This is essentially a political problem. First of all, make sure the school staff, ie principal, superintendant, computer lab teacher all support your goals. If they don't, keep your day job. Once you have their support and suggestions as to how to proceed, meet with each school board member individually. Find the one that is most supportive and ask him to put the topic on the agenda. Be at the meeting in suit and tie. Expect a committee to be formed or assigned to study the problem. It will take tim
  • I am sure you could convince them to create the position, but the position will have to go through all the normal hiring processes. Which means that they would have to accept applicants both internal and external and because of government funding and regulations, they will probably be required to give preference to various minorities such as women, veterans, african americans, the disabled etc.. So while you could convince them to create the position, you might be hard pressed to convince them to hire you
  • Julie Amero (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jayrtfm (148260) <jslash@sophont.cCOFFEEom minus caffeine> on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @04:53PM (#18962823) Homepage Journal
    Simply give every teacher a printed copy of the details of Julie Amero's case, and mention if a competent full time person is not on staff, this could happen to them. Suggest that they may want to voice their concerns to the school board.
  • ... and in a nutshell, the easiest way to do it is to write a business case outlining what you hope to achieve as a full-time sysadmin, what benefits you can bring to the school and what you will cost them. I'd throw in a little bit of 'dreaming' in your business case - what I mean by this is you should show you have a vision for where the schoole *could* be in 5 years time.

    You can read about how I transformed Whitley College from having paid consultants to employing myself to run their facilities. It start
  • The only way you're going to get a full-time position approved is if someone with some serious clout and/or leadership in the school system (wherever the budgets are set) is convinced that it's essential to the school meeting its state-mandated educational outcomes. You need that kind of champion, or it simply won't happen.

    The chances of getting a part-time position approved are better. A well-placed champion would be very helpful, but not essential, because the cost difference and level of commitment
  • I currently work at a school of 994 pupils ( this can flux between 900 and 1200 pupils year on year ). We have the following setup: 6 Computer Labs consisting of a total of 270 PCs. 30 PCs in Administration areas. 70 Staff Laptops. 12 Servers ( with 3 virtual, and one hyper backup doomsday scenario server that will takeover in the event of the server room burning to the ground). Data-wise we deal with multiple storage servers, for a total of roughly 2.5 TB of data. On top of this there are numerous Compu
  • I've only been out of HS 4 years, but here's how my district did things, since I managed to get myself somewhat involved:

    There was a central tech department. For us, they never seemed to do much. So I can't offer information there.
    There were 5 schools in my town, each with about 1500-1800 students. They all had 2-4+ "classroom labs" (with smartboards) for computer courses, accounting, etc. We then had two full stationary PC labs for general use, class projects, research, etc.

    There was one sysadm slot that w
  • First let me describe the conditions were I work (so you can compare your conditions to mine):
    K-8 Elementary/Middle School
    ~500 students
    ~60 staff
    1 20 computer, computer lab (that space doesn't allow for more systems)
    1 fifth grade combined computer lab (as opposed to having PC's in each class), with 12 PC's
    A minimum of 3 PC's per class (& as many as 8)
    12 general teacher use laptops
    1 Mobile Lab (power and wireless routing with 25 student laptops)
    6 roaming smartboards
    3 mobile presentation systems (projector

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