SPRINGFIELD TWP. The Springfield Local School District has an emergency squad of a different kind as the TWE (Technical Work Experience) team is readily spotted in its red ambulance servicing any technical problems at the schools.
Business Manager Dustin Boswell said the team has been looking for a service vehicle for a couple of years but even used vans did not fit into the budget. During a conversation, Boswell learned that the Lakemore Fire Department had an ambulance it was selling. The district went through the bidding process and became the proud owners of the vehicle.
The seven-member team of tech experts had been using their personal vehicles to make the rounds at the schools to fix technology problems. Those fixes usually required multiple trips to storage areas for parts and then back to the schools. The new vehicle offers plenty of room for parts and tools making for a one stop repair is most cases. There is even a work space available with power in the ambulance.
Tech Department Manager Bobby Lininger, like most of the staff that has manned the department, over the years is a Springfield graduate. Lininger, a 2009 graduate, has been involved in the program most of those years while attending college and working at other jobs.
Three members of the staff are high school students. The program gives the students a lot of hands on tech experience. Boswell said even those who may not go into a technology field appreciate the experience. He recently received a note form a former student thanking him for the experience and even though she is not in a related field, the knowledge she gained from the program helped her throughout college.
Lininger said that one of the former TWE members is now teaching and has found her background very helpful in her career as well as helping other teachers with technology issues.
Technology effects so many things, Boswell said,
“When I started, technology was not critical," he said. "It was one of the first things to go when money got tight, but now it is critical. We have gotten involved in so many things I never thought we would.”
Boswell, a 2002 Springfield graduate, pointed to the schools' secruity system being some the team is responsible for.
“When it is not working, Bobby is one of the first people we call," he said.
People can’t get into the buildings when it is not working. Security and like systems are maintained and repaired by the department.
Boswell began in the TWE program during his freshman year and began as a full-time technician for the program in June 2002. He became the technology coordinator in 2007, after graduating from the University of Akron and became the business manager in March 2015.
Years ago, if the internet was down for a half day it was a bit of an inconvenience, but no one "really freaked out," Boswell said. "But now, after five minutes, people get sweaty palms and want to know why it is not working."
When Lininger started with the program in 2008, no one batted an eye when it took him a week to get back to them. Now, when he takes a lunch break, his said his phone is “blowing up with calls because there is so much that can happen in an hours’ time.”
A single building in the district today has more technology than the entire district had 10 years ago. Starting students in the TWE program and getting them the base knowledge has worked well to build a staff of technicians. Boswell said it is nice building a program from within as they know how things work, know the systems and have been around when they have replaced or added new systems.
“Our day can go from fixing a motherboard on a computer, to replacing a screen on an iPad to running the sound system for a play,” Boswell said.
Networking, programing and helping teachers to learn to use some of the technology for their classroom is another part of the job.
The team also handles all the networking, wireless system and they help with the camera setup and other parts of the TV production program. Almost everything has some technology involved.
“They (TWE team) get their fingers in a lot of things,” said Boswell.
Boswell said having the new vehicle frees up time from maintenance staff when large numbers of computers need to be moved or other equipment as now, they can do it in the ambulance. It would get frustrating waiting for a time when maintenance could move things and it is a big help.
People often wonder why an ambulance is parked at the school and Lininger said they have frightened a few principals when they pull up. When the weather breaks, they will work with one of the classes at the school to make emblems for the vehicle.