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Technology: A cornerstone of effective teaching and learning

Serving district students.
Orono Schools’ core technology infrastructure is the platform on which the district operates on so many levels, much like your own home or workplace: devices and software tools; network and wireless systems, cybersecurity protections, building security, communications, student records and business management. These systems form the foundational platform on which the district serves its students. The purposeful use of technology helps teachers engage students, foster 21st Century skills, and secure Orono students’ leading edge academically and in STEM-based knowledge and achievement.* Technology infrastructure must remain current and reliable to ensure effective, 21st Century teaching and learning opportunities and a stable business-operation environment. 

*Orono High School was recently named by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top STEM High Schools in the United States, ranking #177 nationally.

The flexibility to support Distance Learning.
Unlike any other time in its history, the district has had to rely on technology infrastructure and educational tools to provide a consistent teaching and learning environment away from buildings and classrooms, called “distance learning.” The flexibility to support students through distance learning is essential—whether to provide academic support when a single child is ill at home or when the entire district is required to adopt a full or partial distance learning model.

Technology is funded through voter-approved levy

How technology is funded.
In Orono Schools, technology is funded through a voter-approved levy first passed in 2002 and renewed in 2011. This funding is set to expire in 2021. It’s important to note that Minnesota does not provide school districts with categorical aid for technology; districts must rely on technology levies for these essential dollars. 


We listened.

As you may recall, the technology referendum in November 2019 did not pass (1,399 voted no and 1,114 voted yes). Following this defeat, School Board members, district administrators, staff and finance committee members re-evaluated the district’s core technology needs for the next 10 years. They focused on critical infrastructure, equipment and essential teaching and learning tools. The School Board proposed a decrease in the levy request for the fall 2020 referendum from 5.023% to 4.516% times the net tax capacity of the school district.

Ten-year replacement and maintenance plan

Technology infrastructure and equipment must be continually maintained or replaced** as it moves toward obsolete status. Industry research shows that time to obsolescence is occurring faster, demanding a more frequent maintenance or replacement schedule to stay current.


Based on the revised levy request, voter-approved technology funding will support four areas: 


  • Systems & software (exterior security, transportation, Orono PLUS, and “Software as a Service” digital subscriptions like Schoology, Seesaw, TurnItIn, Brainpop, etc.)

  • Infrastructure (basic facilities, services and installations, including WiFi, servers, cabling, firewall, access points, VOIP phone systems, cybersecurity and anti-virus tools)

  • Equipment (technology assets, including student, staff and classroom devices and displays)

  • Support staff (coordinator plus specially trained network and systems support administrators, technology support specialists, and instructional coaches who help teachers optimize educational technology)


**Information Technology (IT) best practices recommend a regular cycle of device replacement every five to seven years to remain stable and reliable and stay ahead of obsolescence. These devices include servers, computers, tablets, access points, switches, etc.


Average annual spending over the next 10 years:

$454,430 (21.7% of technology budget)

Critical replacement and maintenance plans for the next 10 years:

  • WiFi replacement

  • Switch and server replacement

  • Fiber replacement

  • Firewall replacement

  • Access point replacement

  • Power backup replacement

  • VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) for communications and multimedia


Average annual spending over the next 10 years:

$447,000 (21.4% of technology budget)

Critical replacement and maintenance plans for the next 10 years include:

  • Planful device replacement for staff and student use, based on useful life and best practices for replacement cycle to avoid obsolescence

  • Classroom display replacement

  • Maintenance and repair of thousands of devices for individual and classroom use

Systems & Software

Average annual spending over the next 10 years:

$293,074 (14% of technology budget)

Systems and software operations have changed dramatically since the last technology levy was passed in 2011. Software as a Service (SAAS) is the new model, requiring monthly or annual subscription fees.


Examples of systems and software needs over the next 10 years:

  • Exterior building security

  • Transportation systems

  • Classroom applications: Schoology, Seesaw, Brainpop, Kodable

  • Cybersecurity/Firewall/Web filtering

  • Communications and telephone systems

  • Website

Support Staff

Average annual spending over the next 10 years:

$832,429 (39.8% of technology budget)

Orono’s technology team members have unique expertise in network and systems management, technology support and instruction. They are the district's "IT department" that keeps systems running in each building. They stay abreast of changes in IT management to keep systems stable and operational while managing thousands of devices. Round-the-clock availability is often required.


Instructional coaches are licensed teachers and leaders in education technology applications. They design, develop and deliver training to all teaching staff. They keep Orono staff up-to-date on best practices and effective use of technology for personalized learning, engagement and enrichment. 

All support staff work 12 months per year. 


Support staff for the next 10 years:

  • Technology Coordinator

  • Network and systems administrators

  • Tech support specialists

  • Instructional coaches

The remaining levy dollars will be held in emergency reserve (budget = $50,000 per year).