IT departments work "behind the scenes" to prepare schools for students

WICHITA, Kan. - We know you're getting your kids ready for school, and the schools are getting ready for your kids. But it's not just teachers and principals preparing.

Technology departments in districts across the state have worked all summer to make sure computers, printers and Wifi networks are ready.

Technology in schools is more than computers and iPads. Schools also have servers that store information, routers that deliver Wifi and software to protect devices from viruses.

Kelson Graber oversees all the technology at Newton Public Schools. That means he's in charge of 1,300 computers and 52 servers.

His department seems "hidden" because they can do work on computers remotely, without actually touching the computer. He says if they need to get into a classroom, they do it while students are away so they aren't a distraction.

"When I started working here 20 years ago and 20 years ago everything was installed by hand, the problem with that was we were going into live teaching environments so you walk into a room, the teacher has their class fully engaged and the kids look up and that poor teacher lost their attention span," Graber says.

As more classrooms use technology as teaching tools, it puts more pressure on IT departments to keep things running smoothly.

Graber says students themselves get hands-on training. He allows students interesting in the technology field to shadow him, ask questions and learn how to solve the problems themselves.

He says he once had a student in his office when a teacher called with a problem. He handed the phone to the student and let the student help the teacher.

"When it was all solved and the teacher said 'oh my gosh, I can't thank you enough' and the call was over, I'll never forget the student wheeled around and said 'what do I need to major in, what do I need to study to do this all day long?" Graber says, "And I thought 'this is what it feels like to be a teacher in the classroom and watch each individual student find their passion."

Newton does have classes for technology, and shadowing the IT department is another way for them to get experience.

Graber says nothing is more rewarding than being a part of a student's education.