NetDay Logo

Lafayette Partnership Leading School Improvements

Lafayette, Louisiana—Under the leadership of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, NetDay volunteers have wired 250 classrooms in five schools to improve student access to learning tools. The chamber has also helped the school district bring donated computers into classrooms and provided technology training for teachers and administrators.

“ It has been a wonderful and tremendous asset to us,” said Assistant Principal Brian Hebert of G. T. Lindon Elementary School. “We had 13 administrative computers online and 12 in the library media center online. Now we have 96 computers connected to the network and to the Internet.”

Located in southern Louisiana, two hours west of New Orleans, the Lafayette area was ranked 70th in the Forbes/Milken list of Best Places for Business and Careers.

Partnership for Progress
The unique public-private partnership between the school district and the chamber of commerce began with an economic development project.

“ We saw that you have to have a world class education system to have quality economic development,” said Douglas S. Menefee, Chairman of the chamber’s NetDay committee and local technology consultant. The chamber offered to provide planning and facilities expertise to the school board through a joint planning process.

They formed peer review teams of educators and business leaders who are advocates, but not in a position to be vendors (for example, hospital IT staff makes recommendations about IT infrastructure). The teams are responsible for an assessment and recommendations to the board in their area of expertise: technology, human resources, transportation, or facilities. The results are made public.

According to Menefee: “The school board has realized that we bring much more to the table. We are not into the curriculum. We get into the environment in which you teach the children.”

NetDay Model

The technology peer review revealed that the schools had funding for wiring, but lacked enough professional staff to make the connections. Menefee recalled the NetDay events begun in 1996 and downloaded wiring guides, videos, and support materials from For the first NetDay in September 2002, they relied on the chamber’s technology group, “Zydetech,” to network the school.

Now, Menefee leads a NetDay about every two months. One-tenth of volunteers are techies who lead teams of teachers, parents, and community members. After a brief orientation and job training, the teams get to work. The first NetDay wired 55 classrooms in eight hours and the most recent event connected the same number of rooms in four hours.

Another unique partnership involves the corrections institution. Inmates pre-build the cables for the volunteers and patch cables for schools. They learn a trade and appreciate the opportunity to give back to the community, according to Menefee.

Beyond Wiring
The state of Louisiana offers LeadTech training for administrators and InTech training for teachers. However, without a reliable infrastructure only about 5% of Lafayette administrators had gone through the program. With the support of the chamber, all of the administrators have participated and teachers are increasingly involved with InTech.

“ Before LeadTech, I had a pretty good understanding of technology,” said Hebert. “It provided me with information and resources. My skills are sharper, and I am more confident to get up in front of my teachers and demonstrate.”

Due to Hurricane Isidore, NetDay at Plantation Elementary School was almost cancelled last September. A break in severe weather gave volunteers just enough time to connect computers, and when students arrived on Monday, they used their new Internet connections to track the hurricane using online educational resources.

“ Many of the business leaders are astonished that our kids are just now exposed,” said Menefee. “Our NetDays have created a complete attitude change. Parents want to be involved in the education process and this gives them a hands on activity. It is a model for future projects.”