As he seeks ways to provide much-needed internet access for Boulder Valley School District students whose families cannot afford it, BVSD Chief Information Officer Andrew Moore is no stranger to trying to improve the day-to-day lives for residents of a community.
“I’m a problem solver by nature,” said Moore. “I like to think about the problems we have and how to find solutions for them.”
In March of 2010, as he was finishing his six years as mayor of Erie, Moore told the Daily Camera, “High-quality communities have certain amenities that they’re able to call their own, that they can rally around and be proud of. I wanted that for Erie.”
During his mayoral tenure, Moore played a part in the building of a recreation center, a library, and a community park. At the same time, he worked at his full-time job with Sun Microsystems – where he was employed for 13 of his 26 years in the private sector. As term limits brought an end to his time as mayor, Moore suddenly found himself in a career transition.
“Sun Microsystems was also going through a transition, and they were getting acquired by Oracle,” said Moore. “It was a great time for me to take a step back, and to say, what do I want to do next? Oracle offered me a great job, but did I really want to stay in that corporate world?”
Moore said his next career move was impacted by his experience as mayor, where he took pleasure in serving the public at large.
“(It) drove me to look for a role that I could use my technology background and my government experience to really do things for the good of the many,” he said.
When the CIO position with the Boulder Valley School District became available, Moore applied for it and was offered the job, which he accepted.
“I haven’t looked back. That’s six and a half years ago,” said Moore.
He said his job responsibilities include traditional IT, human resources, payroll, finance systems and student information systems.
“I’m also responsible for educational technology,” said Moore. “That’s the technology that is used in classrooms to help with the teaching practice.”
“It’s integral in the way that not only we teach, but the way that students learn.”
At BVSD schools of all grade levels, many students utilize the internet to complete assignments without giving it a second thought.
BVSD Educational Technology Specialist Erika Morreale said the value of the internet in education should not be understated.
“I think it’s integral in the way that not only we teach, but the way that students learn. We are using the tools of our time,” said Morreale. “We want students to come to school and use the same tools that their using to learn at home.”
Jeff Sanders is a language arts teacher at Southern Hills Middle School, in south Boulder, who said he uses Google sites to allow each of his students to create their own student portfolio.
“At the beginning of the year they get their own Google site … and then from there on, it’s theirs to kind of make it their own but with the purpose of kind of collecting everything that they do throughout the course of the year,” said Sanders, who is far from the only teacher in Boulder County to use such tools as a significant means of instruction.
“The digital divide is real, and it is the civil rights issue of our day.”
Unfortunately, Moore said, not all students have the same access to the internet that others have.
“As I got into education, I really started to understand that in our population right here in Boulder Valley, there are students that have the capability to get on line, they have the capability to learn through digital means,” said Moore. “And then there are students, a small percentage in our district but still a fairly significant number of students, who basically do not have internet at home, or have inadequate internet at home.”
Thus, just as he wanted Erie to have quality amenities the town could be proud of, Moore decided he wanted all BVSD students to have equal access to amenities – like internet use at home — they can use to get a quality education.
“I started to recognize that the digital divide is real, and it is the civil rights issue of our day,” said Moore. “I really believe that.”
“We have a community where the digital divide lives.”
Lora De La Cruz is her second year as principal at Alicia Sanchez International School, an elementary school in Lafayette, which Moore said the school serves “the most impoverished population in Boulder Valley Schools.”
De La Cruz estimated that about 30 percent of the 416 students, who attend school at Sanchez, have internet access at home.
“You can do the math and see that we have a community where the digital divide lives,” said De La Cruz.
Last year, Moore told De La Cruz of his vision to provide free internet access to families and students who reside in the community around Sanchez.
“We are right now in negotiations to expand wireless from the school itself,” said Moore. “Whether that goes through or not will still take another three to six months before we work out all the details, but I’m hopeful there will be an internet signal that will broadcast from the school that families in need would have receivers, and they would be able to pick up the signal, and have internet that they otherwise would not be able to have.”
De La Cruz said each Sanchez student, while at school, now has access to a Chromebook, an eleven-inch laptop which runs the Google operating system Chrome. She said it’s an improvement from last year, when students were sharing the devices and their access could be uneven.
“It’s not easy to provide internet to those who don’t have it in a very fluid, seamless way.”
As part of an initiative called ‘one-to-web,’ incoming freshmen at Centaurus High School and Broomfield High School are provided with Chromebooks which can be used at school and at home.
Students in Boulder, whose families live in low-income housing provided by Boulder Housing Partners, are now able to access the internet at home thanks to a two-year-old partnership between BVSD and BHP, but Moore said this access may be in jeopardy.
“We get federal money through a program called E-rate,” said Moore. “E-rate says that I can only use that signal, or the internet, in our schools. Boulder Housing Partners, in their mind, is not one of our schools.”
BVSD filed a waiver request with the FCC, which is currently up for public comment, on the basis that education happens anywhere. Moore said the district hopes to receive a ruling shortly after the comment period ends in November.
“If they basically say no, we’ll have to shut down that internet in that housing development, shutting off the kids in the most need,” said Moore.
As learning processes rapidly change, Moore said the slow speed at which BVSD has been able to get acceptance for broadcasting internet signals has been an obstacle in his efforts.
“It’s not easy to provide internet to those who don’t have it in a very fluid, seamless way,” he said. “We’re fortunate that, in this community, libraries have internet that they can get on to. Many businesses, whether it’s Starbucks or McDonald’s – or a whole host of others – we know that the students can get on line there. Or they get on line at their friends’ homes.”