On the Cutting-Edge: IT Network Modernization Fund

July 01, 2019

Jan O Ed

Fulcrum’s IT Network Modernization Fund exceeded expectations, bringing much-needed upgrades into Catholic schools across western Washington.

Created in 2016, the five-year plan brings mission-critical internet access into schools. Before the program’s inception, less than five percent of schools had adequate internet access.

Just three years later, 45 schools have received Fulcrum funds to install reliable wireless access. Over 400 high-performance wireless access points (about one per classroom) have been added, along with 10 miles of network cabling.

Jan O’Callahan, Fulcrum Trustee, and her husband, Tom, were the driving force for the project, championing funding, overseeing coordination, and managing installation. Paul Wyckoff joined the team in 2018 and his technical expertise with IT infrastructure greatly assisted with the design process and cost-effectiveness.

“Our schools have many diverse funding needs, and each school has its own funding priorities,” Jan O’Callahan said. “All too often the basic network access that makes all the IT infrastructure function is assigned a low priority.”

With the help of the IT Network Modernization Fund, all schools now meet the industry minimum standard for internet connection speed. Around 5,000 computers now have high-performance network access for internet-hosted student assessments and cloud-based curriculum.

As part of the plan, schools requested Federal Communications Commission (FCC) E-Rate technology funding. From 2016 to 2019, E-Rate awarded schools $309,468 in funding. Fulcrum matched that amount and then some, giving schools approximately $450,000.

“This program is need-blind, and offered to all K-8 schools. Since this equipment is an industry standard product, it works in many diverse technology environments,” O’Callahan explained. “Leveraging the FCC E-Rate federal funds has been key to its success.”

The work isn’t done yet. 2020 modernization projects are already in the works for the final seven schools.