Buellton School students look at NASA's model of the Mars

How the Power of Tech Influenced a Superintendent to Upgrade Connectivity in Buellton

“We need to make sure there’s equal access [for] all kids. We have a pretty wide range of demographics. All kids need to have access to these tools… when that didn’t exist, it created this sense of urgency.” Dr. Randy Haggard, Buellton Union School District

Dr. Haggard wasn’t always this supportive of technology in the classroom. After a state requirement compelled him to take a computer class, this former English teacher, “saw the power of tech.” At Buellton Union, which serves just over 600 students in Santa Barbara County, California, Dr. Haggard is a superintendent who is dedicated to making sure his teachers and students have access to high-speed Internet to keep up with changing technology.

Despite having new devices, Buellton’s outdated network caused many frustrations for teachers and administrators. The network couldn’t sustain the devices being used and often crashed leading to additional barriers for the small district that lacked technology personnel.

Dr. Haggard knew that updating the broadband infrastructure would help enhance their technology capabilities and greatly improve their ability to offer digital learning, but with the challenges of time, resources, and lack of technical support, he knew he needed assistance. The County Board of Education had just the recommendation – EducationSuperHighway.

“No offense at all, but I was a little skeptical [of EducationSuperHighway],” he stated, “But I was immediately impressed by your transparency, your knowledge, your understanding of what I was looking for… you gained my trust by the first call.”

With his skepticism aside and the newfound technical expertise and implementation assistance he needed, Dr. Haggard turned his attention to tackling the difficulty in implementing new fiber connections for Buellton without it becoming costly. He was interested in connecting to the K-12 High Speed Network (K12HSN), a state-funded program that provides the K-12 community with network connectivity.

“Having a better IT network is like going from a drinking straw to a fire hose in terms of capacity.”

Dr. Haggard and EducationSuperHighway set off to plan how to upgrade the school district’s network for an affordable rate that would increase the current bandwidth. The California state team provided guidance on the E-rate RFP process and developed a Form 470 strategy. It was also suggested that Buellton apply for the state match program known as the Broadband Infrastructure Improvement Grant (BIIG), as this would provide the district the financial help to build out an updated network.

In the end, it worked; Buellton was accepted into the BIIG program and will begin implementing their network upgrade to support their devices, computer-based assessments and digital learning plans. Now, the school district and once-skeptical superintendent are eager to make [technology] work for students.

For more on information about the BIIG program or how to get started upgrading your school district network, contact the California Broadband for Education team.