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NetDay Stories: Making Connections for Children

North Carolina: Planning + People = Partnership
North Carolina NetDay began in October 1996 and wiring continued through October 1998 under the non-profit The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning's leadership and state government support. About 25,000 volunteers networked 25,500 classrooms (one-third of total) across North Carolina, saving taxpayers approximately $47 million.

A Continuing Project

The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning
David Boliek
President,The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning

Back when people subscribed to email lists to find out about new web sites, a television news reporter in North Carolina received an email about David Boliek followed the link to learn about the California NetDay in spring 1996, and was so inspired that he began a campaign with photographer Victoria Deaton, to bring the program to their state. They started an advisory committee of educators, state leaders, and business leaders from research Triangle Park and across the state in order to marshal their expertise to organize NetDay.

We read about NetDay in California and started writing letters. What an incredible idea: marshalling business resources, and volunteer people to get schools up to speed. This was the only way it was going to get done. NetDay was an incredible, original, searing thought that people latched onto and ran with
-- David Boliek

The success of the first NetDay in October 1996 got the attention of the legislature. They came to Boliek with an offer: you had no money, no budget, and no staff, what could you accomplish with funding? With state funding and business partnerships, Boliek and Deaton founded The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning, a nonprofit dedicated to equipping all schools with the technology and training necessary to prepare students, teachers, and communities for the 21st Century and its economy.

They [the advisory committee] saw what I saw as a reporter: in the most remote, poorest parts of North Carolina, teachers were teaching their heart out and the Internet gave them access to information. Through the Internet, kids in Halifax County or Warren County could have access to the same information as Chapel Hill. All of a sudden the playing field got leveled.
-- David Boliek

The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning continues their work through a program that address the shortage of technology workers with school training programs, the need for teacher training in curriculum integration techniques, and expanding access to networks through computer repair and refurbishment. Their training centers advance the NetDay legacy through a staff development model that enables teachers in urban, rural, and schools in between to share best practices.

A Map to Success

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
Elsie Brumback
Retired Director of Educational Technology
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

For 25 years, Elsie Brumback served as Director of Educational Technology for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (she retired in 1999). A recognized leader in education technology, the state counts many "firsts" among its accomplishments:

  • the first state to have a statewide technology plan;
  • the first state to have a computer skills curriculum K-12;
  • the first state to mandate that all students must pass a computer proficiency test prior to graduating from college; and
  • the first state to mandate that all educators must include 5 hours of technology training as part of their pre-requisite courses for certificate renewal.

Brumback and Boliek knew each other well, when Dave started his NetDay mission and Elsie recalls: "I knew that he would proceed with his plan whether we were involved or not...and as he has said repeatedly since that time... 'Elsie knew that if she didn't want Dave to really screw things up that she had better come to the table and be a key player!'"

Her office joined the advisory team and began pitching the NetDay idea to school leaders. To overcome resistance, Brumback carried a map of the state with her to meetings with each district color-coded: green for wired or a funded plan to wire, yellow for districts with coordinators in place and fully involved in the NetDay planning process, and red for districts that had indicated that they did not intend to participate. Due to pressure from legislators, the general public and others, red disappeared from the map.

It was exciting for our Advisory Board to roll up our sleeves and pull wire with local folks in our "pilot" schools prior to the big day so that we could work out the bugs. My regional staff members served as regional coordinators for the project and facilitated any questions or problems that arose in their region. Dave enlisted the help of the National Guard to use helicopters to cover the state with supplies needed at the last minute. Several local companies used their retired employees (called Pioneers) all across the state to share their technical expertise in remote areas where it was needed. The news media co-operated with coverage throughout the day as well as a grand finale at the state capitol at the end of the day where numerous district staff members were featured over the news wires to tell of their successes during the day...Everyone took pride in the great success that NetDay had offered to the schools of North Carolina.
-- Elsie Brumback