In the 1990s, then-science teacher Stanley McDonald built a small network of Apple II computers in a lab at Willis School.
Twenty-eight years later, McDonald is ending his tenure as director of technology for Delaware City Schools, a district with more than 7,200 computers and devices.
McDonald said he began subbing in the district in 1990 after coming here with his wife from Maine, and he took a long-term subbing position the following year when a seventh-grade science teacher at Willis became seriously ill and could not finish the year.
When that teacher was unable to return the following year, McDonald applied for the position and was hired to teach science full time.
“When I was in college, the Apple Macintosh came out, and I worked in a lab for a professor,” McDonald said. “I was entering data, all hand-typed. I always liked computers. So when I started teaching here, when there were few computers around, I started collecting (Apple II) computers from other teachers who weren’t using them and bringing them into my science lab here.”
McDonald said the Apple II was special because it could be networked with other computers and would allow users to save and retrieve data regardless of the machine they were working on. McDonald joked that the quality of science fair posters improved dramatically because of his lab.
“That’s kind of where I got started leveraging technology in the class room.” he said.
McDonald said as the district started using more and more technology, it appointed a high school math teacher as the technology coordinator.
“As we started to get more and more computers she needed more help, and I noticed and said ‘I like this, and I’d like to know more,’ and I volunteered,” McDonald said.
McDonald said the district brought him on during the 1998-1999 school year to teach other teachers how to use technology and moved him to the high school.
“I got lucky. I’m an early adopter,” McDonald said.
He added the district had to start contracting help as the technology needs grew, and McDonald also noted the district essentially has the same small number of technology employees now that it had in 2001/2002.
“We have the same number of people now that we had then, yet we have thousands of more computers,” he said. “We had about 3,700 hundred kids in Delaware City Schools and not more than 500 or 600 computers … Now we have 5,700 students and about 600 staff and 7,236 computers. Most everything we have now is mobile, whether it be a tablet, a chromebook or a laptop. Everything we do now, from business to education, is done with technology.”
McDonald has overseen integrating technology across the district, including covering the entire district in wireless internet, using computers to control the HVAC systems across the district, and even using computers to plot the most efficient bus routes.
“Those are some pieces to make an efficient operation. We want to stretch that dollar as far as you can stretch it,” McDonald said.
Despite all the changes to the district in the last 28 years, McDonald said his focus remains on education.
“Lead with learning, not with technology,” he said. “School is about learning, teaching and learning, and getting kids to that level of achievement. So, it’s about what does that technology look like in the service of learning?”
McDonald said by harnessing the power of technology, the district is now able to craft individual lessons and assessments for students and get instant feedback on where they are and what they need help with.
As for the future of technology at Delaware City Schools, that will be left to someone else as McDonald has decided to retire.
“I’m old,” he laughed.
McDonald said he is retiring to spend more time with his family and his 87-year-old mother in North Carolina.
“It’s also a new adventure,” McDonald said. “It’s about what’s next. I’ve been very fortunate that I can retire and spend time with my family. One of the first things we’re going to do when we head down that way is find the local schools and volunteer. I’ll always stay connected with education.”
McDonald said he’ll miss the people he’s worked with in the district.
“I’ve been both lucky and fortunate to have built some relationships with a lot of good people,” McDonald said. “School is an institution, and there were people here before me who helped build this institution … and all those people who retired before me laid this groundwork and these foundational pieces, and on some level, you’re continuing to lay the foundation for the next folks to take over and continue the institution. It’s a team. It’s not one person. It’s building relationships and working together, and figuring out how to collaborate.”
McDonald’s last day with the district is today.
Delaware City Schools Superintendent Paul Craft said the following about McDonald’s retirement:
“Stan has touched so many lives in his various positions with Delaware City Schools,” Craft said. “One always hopes to leave things just a bit better than when they came, and Stan has definitely left our district in a better place. He has been a visionary leader who has helped to position our district to continue to be on the leading edge of educational technology. Our students will reap the benefits of his work for many years to come.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.