Getting a 10 GB Network Proves Politically Challenging

It took two tries and a $300 million measure before the Boulder Valley School District could go ahead with plans for a new network.

Students in the Boulder Valley School District in Colorado often have faster Internet connections at home than they do at any of the district's 54 public schools. For years a single T1 line has been the district's clogged on-ramp to the information superhighway. "Our biggest challenge is bandwidth," says CIO Dave Williamson. "Building a new network is not technologically challenging, but it is politically challenging."

In 2002, voters narrowly defeated a bond measure that would have funded a new network. Then, last fall, voters approved a measure raising almost $300 million for the district, with about 10% earmarked for IT. Williamson plans on building a 10 GB network. With Lawson Software, the district has already upgraded its back office and can now reduce administrative costs by tracking purchasing trends to negotiate volume discounts.

In some ways, the recent campaign benefited from the previous measure's failure. Williamson briefed ballot measure supporters on how important technology is to competitive curriculums and held forums to educate the public. "I've spent 27 years in the K-12 sector," Williamson says. The hardest part, he says, "is process: getting buy-in from students, parents, staff, teachers. Making sure all the stakeholders are involved is important."

Michael Ybarra is a contributing writer for SearchCIO-Midmarket.com. Write to him at editor@ciodecisions.com.

This was first published in May 2007

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