Roger Wick and Benjamin Kraus-Talbert are part of a ten-person team, supporting Douglas ESD and school districts with IT support.

Get to know IT at Douglas ESD

Douglas Education Service District’s Information Technology team worked throughout the summer to prepare for the new school year.

“We’re here to help the students to be the best that they can be. We exist because of the students,” said Asthika Welikala, Douglas ESD’s chief information officer.

Welikala leads a 10-person team who provides Douglas ESD employees and school districts with IT support. These professionals bring their expertise to everything they do from understanding trends to introducing new technologies.

Early in Welikala’s career, he helped set up school offices with email service. The role of the IT department has grown to support instruction, administrative functions and campus security. From the earliest learners to people who champion children of all ages, IT plays an important role in education.

On the Douglas ESD side, there are more than 300 employees between Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath and Lake counties. Every employee needs safe and reliable technology that supports learning and communication. Many of the agency’s professionals work in early learning or with schools. Devices that provide students with teletherapy, assessments and curriculum need to function. Data and document storage needs to be secure. The IT team also leads technology training for new employees. Day-to-day support is also available to all employees, ensuring devices run smoothly and daily operations go on without a hitch.

IT leads trainings for new employees.

The agency also provides internet access to all public school districts in Douglas County. Districts are provided with a content filtering service that’s complies with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Districts are also equipped with firewall and antivirus protection.

“On any given day, there are about 16,000 to 20,000 devices that flow through Douglas ESD for internet access, at sixty-three sites,” said Welikala. “People may not know how big the footprint is because you can’t see it.”

Stacie Wiley, Douglas ESD’s systems integrator, provided technology support at a statewide AT-TIES Together Conference held in Salem.

Douglas ESD provides districts cost savings in digital curriculum, hardware, phone, bell schedules, licensing, WiFi, internet security and virtual servers. With less money going to operations, more money can be used for education.

The team provides site-based IT contracted services to eight public school districts. “A smaller district can contract with Douglas ESD rather than hiring their own employee,” said Welikala.

Winston-Dillard School District receives contracted IT support from Douglas ESD. “We have great technology for kids, and Douglas ESD’s IT manages the system,” said Kim Kellison, Winston-Dillard School District superintendent.

This district depends on IT for digital curriculum that supports literacy and math, assessment tools, data storage, monitors, communication tools and campus security.

“We had significant upgrades this year to existing technology in classrooms and public announcement systems, which were managed by the Doulgas ESD IT team,” said Kellison. “In addition to our new construction projects, this was an enormous undertaking, and I’m happy to report that everything is ready for kids and teachers when they return in the fall.”

Michael David is a computer technician based in this district. He spent the summer installing the intercom system that connects the schools and district office.

Michael David is a computer technician for Douglas ESD and works at Winston-Dillard School District. This summer he installed 150 digital clock intercom speakers throughout the district.

“I enjoy being here,” he said. “I enjoy my job. And it’s fun to be around kids.” David explained that the role requires him to be a jack-of-all trades. He uses his background in construction when he needs to drill holes and anchor equipment into concrete. “This job requires the team to have mechanical minds.”

David also mentioned that the district previously had computer labs, but now each student has a Chromebook. Assessments and learning connected to technology can take place in each classroom. “It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come,” he said.

Douglas ESD’s IT continues to look to the future and is ready when needed. The late Oregon State Representative, House District 2, Gary Leif worked with school leaders to identify technology needs. Last year $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding was awarded to eight local school districts to expand technology. The funds were used for cyber security, improved bandwidth and digital classroom equipment. After purchases were made, the IT team was responsible for deploying the equipment.

With the new school year kicking off, IT will continue supporting children, educators, families and the community.

Sidebar: Many moving parts help children learn and thrive. Douglas Education Service District is one of the moving pieces. The agency partners with school districts and organizations. The goal is to increase opportunities for all children, from birth to adulthood. This article is part of an ongoing series that features programs and people who help students succeed.