daveheinzel.com  Since 2000
by Dave Heinzel, March 18, 2014

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As our website gets outdated, teachers and then schools will turn elsewhere.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.


I simply hope that the money is found and you stay.

Theresa Greco
Mar 18, 2014, 7:30 P.M.

This really breaks my heart. I spent the last week at sxsw.edu & the last 10 in education & the one thing I've learned is we need people like you. The whole system is just so very flawed. I wish I could afford you to make my stupid site!!

Stephanie Bogdanich
Mar 18, 2014, 7:57 P.M.

Wait. Is that person who can do the website, design, photos, AND video really Jesse Pinkman?

Randy Heinzel
Mar 18, 2014, 8:23 P.M.

Very well said Dave. You did a great job speaking at the Board Meeting last night. You have done an amazing job as D186 Website Developer. I have taught my 4th/5th grade students so many things about their website that I can't imagine them not using it in the future. Our students are ready to create, blog, post, communicate and expand their audience with their work and they deserve it. That is where they are at in their learning and creating. I will remain hopeful that you will get to remain in this position. You are too valuable to lose.

Bette Wells
Mar 18, 2014, 8:37 P.M.

Stated well my friend! I was saddened by the news, however it is a blessing in disguise for you. I wish you the best in your future wherever you are (even back in the district if that occurs). Thanks for all you have done for our district.

Bob Hayes
Mar 18, 2014, 8:56 P.M.

Good luck, Dave. Hopeful for you!

Mar 18, 2014, 9:05 P.M.

Joey Buttafucco is so sad.

C. Loyd
Mar 18, 2014, 9:21 P.M.

I've been in your shoes (well not literally, but about as close as might be possible). I'm really impressed with your tact and way of handling it all. I think that some days I'm still back on phase one or two of those grief steps. Like so many, I hope you stay. I'm proud and honored that someone of your talent and creativity works for and cares so much about our schools. However, if you do move on I must tell you that it does get better. You might even find yourself in a new place doing something you love even more. I know that's trite and obvious, but I lived it so I feel I can state the obvious. Another obvious: quite simply, you rock.

Mar 18, 2014, 9:53 P.M.

I am disheartened at what is to become of a district I've literally spent my entire life in. Every time I turn around it seems we are losing another valuable asset. I think the work you have done is phenomenal and it saddens me that you might not return. I wish you well and know that whatever you do it will be magnificent! I only hope it is with our district!

Betsy Martin
Mar 18, 2014, 10:50 P.M.

Wonderfully stated. Best of luck

Joe Coffey
Mar 19, 2014, 7:14 A.M.

Well said, Dave. I know that God placed you in 186 to be a blessing to my children (and to me). You have impacted their lives and careers in ways that I never imagined. I also trust that God will continue to use your talents and gifts to be blessings to many in the future. Prayers and hugs from Ohio.

Juli Lejman-Guy
Mar 19, 2014, 8:27 A.M.

I agree that more time should be focused in how to bring in money rather than always making cuts. Best of luck! I hope this will have a positive outcome, both for you and the district.

Mar 19, 2014, 9:15 A.M.

Sorry to hear this Dave!!! You will be a token they will need as soon as they don't have it.

Mar 19, 2014, 2:36 P.M.

I heard there were going to be cuts in technology, but DAVE HEINZEL?!?!? I don't know you personally, Dave, but I've admired your work for years. You are one of the most incredibly talented employees in the district. Thank you for your MANY contributions over the years. I'm sure someone with your abilities will not be idle for long! Best wishes!!!!

Kelly Joyner, GMS
Mar 19, 2014, 3:44 P.M.

Good luck Dave. As almost anyone can see, our lack of funding for education is cutting many valuable learning opportunities. The kids suffer the most. You have great skills and will find something. The kids/teachers who lost their web developer just lost more. Best wishes.

Emily (Conrad) Pool
Mar 19, 2014, 7:21 P.M.

Incredibly well said. Classic Dave. Ditto every entry that proceeds mine. We need new money. We need leadership that can build a viable coalition with a vision. We need stories like yours to sell it. Every time I see a news story about Smart tech in neighboring districts...and watch Noah handwriting AP notes... I hang my head. Think we've had about enough head hanging in this district. It's time to raise our heads, caste a vision and head butt the kraken! We need you. Period.

Lori Schlosser
Mar 20, 2014, 6:42 A.M.

This stinks! I'm sorry and I hope you get to stay. The idea that we can spend $$ on certain things but not education is upsetting.

Carol Sponagle
Mar 20, 2014, 7:44 A.M.

Hope that things work out for you to stay. You did a tremendous favor for the SHS band when we needed an audition video to march at Disney World. I wish you well.

Kelly Goldberg
Mar 20, 2014, 4:40 P.M.

Wow, I am beginning to understand why the tech integration into my classroom has been so wonderful. Sorry to see you go! I have really grown to appreciate how valuable you and Karen Thompson have been to the integration of technology into District 186 classrooms. From what I have seen and experienced, the synergy between you two has been phenomenal. A wonderful bridge of technical experience, creativity and classroom understanding has been built that is irreplaceable, invaluable and apparently not fully appreciated by the current board. Karen is a master teacher helping teachers implement the technology in classrooms and you provide the scaffolding that supports and allows the creative process of teaching to take place. Beautiful.

You can't just put hardware onto a desk and expect great things. It takes someone to imagine the flow and the possibilities that exist. Both you and Karen have allowed this to happen. In my inquiry classroom using iPads furnished via a District 186 technology grant, a student started his own blog relating to our unit of inquiry and he has invited his classmates to post comments. The comment that he made to me in the hallway on the way to lunch was, "I need to do more research to know how to reply when people post." That, in my world, is one the best expressions of the promise of technology to inspire, invigorate and promote learning that there can be. A student is deep in the heart of learning at that point. He is energized, having fun and being an active participant in the educational life of a classroom. To top it off, this is from a "difficult" student. Someone who is tougher than others to reach.

I'm starting to imagine things a little differently in the classroom. The old models I clung to are slowly being replaced. The process is slow, incremental and takes time. Kind of how every cell in our body is replaced in a gradual yet steady way, my teaching is evolving and being changed. I'm grateful to you and Karen.

And hopeful too. Hopeful that the board will have an epiphany and maybe take a couple athletic coaches out of the mix. Yes, sports are great at keeping kids roped into the system. But I'm sure that your creativity, energy and vision have kept some kids engaged, growing and evolving too in this district. The institutional knowledge you possess, the intimate knowledge you have of the technical systems that we have in place and your creative heart are invaluable.

I'm going to start volunteering on behalf of pro-tax referendum groups. Things need to change.

Thanks, Mr. Heinzel. Thanks for being the real deal, a person with a great heart who has worked to help the students of 186. I’m happy to know that your talents will certainly be appreciated and valued by your next employer should our district allow you to leave. Sad too, knowing that their gain is our loss many times over. Best to you!

David Morgan - Iles 4th Grade
Mar 22, 2014, 10:01 A.M.

Dave I don't know what this district will look like with out you and Karen!! There has to be another answer! We need people who will think outside the box to find the money!! Best of luck wherever you land it will be on your feet!!

Mar 23, 2014, 9:36 A.M.

There is always park city, starting at 5th grade every student gets a laptop through graduation

Mar 28, 2014, 8:01 P.M.

"You can't catch Pink Slip. It's not contagious." I will laugh through my tears at that one for months to come. I can relate.
Best wishes to you.

Liana S.
Jun 22, 2014, 7:53 A.M.