Dave for hire
At this point it's public knowledge that my position as Website Developer for Springfield Public Schools has been eliminated from next year's budget. This means that as of July 1, I am unemployed.
I'm pretty sure I've been through the five stages of grief at this point, though it's always hard to tell if you've truly moved past denial. So I want to say up front that this is not a "feel sorry for Dave" blog. I'm doing just fine and am looking forward.
There are some uncertainties, both for my future and the fate of the website. Many teachers rely on its tools for classroom instruction, and my kids will be in Springfield Public Schools for years to come. So I have a vested interest in leaving this thing in good shape.
What will happen to the website?
I'm not totally sure. The site wasn't designed with auto-pilot. No website is these days. And while I spend most of my time developing new features and upgrades, there are sometimes unforeseen emergencies that need immediate attention. Sometimes the whole site is unavailable. Sometimes it's just a specific feature. Many times the failures are not as obvious.
Servers fill up. Upgrading server software (and not upgrading it) creates problems. A month ago, I spent four hours fixing an issue that rendered half of the website unusable. It's a complex system of multiple code bases, multiple points of hardware failure and complicated server and network configurations. If website technology were a car, it would be an old beater that runs on duct tape and a prayer.
The one thing I am certain of is that cutting this position means no new development for the website, and the new site I have been developing for months will not launch (it would be a disservice to launch a new site and then walk out the door). What we have now is as good as it's going to get, and it's already a year old. And in website years, that's old.
As our website gets outdated, teachers and then schools will turn elsewhere. We will lose consistency across the site, we'll lose integration with the Info Systems and we'll lose control over our information. If the District is able to bring a web developer back in the future, the first job is going to be convincing schools and teachers to come back to our tools. This is the single most difficult task, and it's one that we spent years working towards.
Or possibly the District will elect to use a third-party service like other public school districts, such as Bloomington, Chatham, Peoria or Rockford. And if any of those sites look good to you, I urge you to click through to the school and teacher level. And keep in mind that our website currently offers full websites for every single student.
Is there a chance I could stay?
Yes. And at this point, that would be my preference. I have invested years in this website, and I have a very good handle on what our schools, teachers, staff and students need from our online tools. And I have a million and one ideas for the future that I would love to bring to fruition.
In order for me to stay, the District needs to find money and reinstate this position. I am not exactly hopeful that this will happen. We've searched every locker, lost & found box, every playground, shook down every freshman... there simply isn't money anywhere.
This is not a new story. It's been going on for years in this district, and the website is just the latest casualty in a long line of beloved programs to vanish.
There is hope in knowing that technology is a priority. But the thing that eats at me every night is that no matter what anyone says about what might happen and what should happen, the fact is that the Board has voted twice unanimously to remove this position.
How dare they!
No, it's cool. Everyone has been very understanding, and I think the process played out exactly as it should have. Nobody wants to cut anything. And everyone understands what our website is and what purpose it serves. I would only worry if that wasn't the case. But I think it is.
And anyone who remembers what the general state of the District and the Board was last year at this time will understand me when I say it is a very welcome change to see the Board getting along and acting as one. Last night, sitting at the meeting, somewhere underneath the nervousness of anticipating my public speaking, I felt a bit of pride that this was the Board that represents me. And they did the job that needed to be done.
Why are you writing this like a FAQ?
I don't really know what happened. It wasn't my plan.
But, Dave. You need to freak out a little.
Done. Moving on.
Fine. Now what?
This brings us to the title of the blog. While I still retain hope (or delusion) that I'll somehow get to keep my job, there's a likelihood that this will still turn into something positive. I've heard that creatives fail up. I've been meeting some very nice people and companies that I didn't know much about before this whole thing.
But my focus right now is making the District website as strong as possible. It's like sending an unmanned ship out to sea. You can build it as strong as you want, but you know — (in the voice of Jesse Pinkman) — the kraken!
Anyway, it's time to update the resume and portfolio. If anyone has leads out there for anyone seeking a website developer, graphic designer, photographer and/or filmmaker, please let me know.
Lastly, if you see me in the hallway (which is rare, I like my cave), you don't have to turn the other way. You can't catch Pink Slip. It's not contagious. There's an odd air around people in my position. The walking dead. The bottom line is that we're all in this ship together. And if the kraken comes for me today, he will be back tomorrow.
Someone smarter than myself needs to figure out how to get money into our public school system. That's a game I don't know how to play. But if anyone wants to organize a campaign, I know just the person to do the website. And design. And photos. And video.