RBUSD I.T. – Unsung heroes of a school district

Redondo Unified School District I.T. team members, from left to right, Jessica Baird, teacher on special assignment; Sarah Olesiuk, instructional materials specialist; Jacobo Olivares, systems technician; Will Taira, database support technician; Jesse Salazar, systems engineer; Sandra Orozco, senior systems engineer; and Susana Garcia, chief technology officer. Taira’s shirt was created by an RBUSD teacher on special assignment. Photo courtesy RBUSD

by Garth Meyer

Would there be an R a B a U an S or a D today without an I and T?

They deal with e-waste, registration day, new teacher orientation and solve problems at every school site. They crawl through roofs to replace conduit, re-wire and pull new fiber connections; all for a few thousand people who mostly do not know what that means.

They are the 12-member Redondo Unified School District I.T. team. Everyone knows what it stands for. 

“When things go awry, somehow they are able to push that magic button and get things going again pretty quickly,” said Nicole Wesley, Redondo Unified superintendent. 

The team is led by Susana Garcia, chief technology officer.

Things they do for the district are: network upgrades, software contracts and procedures, digital citizenship  – which started last spring with 10-20 minute lessons for elementary students through high school specialized to each age group – and laptop refreshing, user support, maintaining the campus security system and more.

This summer was another annual rush.

“It’s been nonstop,” said Garcia.

“Most of the time, to make something better, you have to break it first. And you can’t do that during the school year.” said Dan Elder, RBUSD board member. 

Byung Cho, another board member, also pays tribute to the I.T. team, saying that in “a former life” he was an I.T. professional himself.

“A lot of people don’t know (what they do)…” Cho said. “That’s a good thing, because everything went well.”



RBUSD I.T. is divided into two main groups: technicians and systems engineers. 

Technicians are the “frontliners,” Garcia said, fanning out to schools to handle help-desk tickets. Systems engineers manage the network from the district office. 

This summer, I.T. prepared new laptops for more than 600 teachers and staff, and new Chromebooks for sixth and ninth-graders. They also upgraded the district’s network, school by school, for more speed and bandwidth. 

Another major project was moving the district’s on-premises e-mail system at district headquarters to the Microsoft cloud. This is known as e-mail migration, to make it less vulnerable to hacking and phishing. 

“That’s enormous. It’s not a small endeavor,” said Garcia. “We hope to finalize it in the next few weeks.”

The network upgrade project increases capacity for the whole district; replacing physical systems, running new cables and more.

Right now I.T. team members are putting in new, VCR-sized Cisco switches in the closet network mini-hubs at each school. A location such as Parras Middle School has more than 20 such closet hubs. The mini-hubs connect back to the MDF – Main Distribution Frame, at the district office. 

“The main brain room,” said Garcia.

Each classroom has a wireless access point, which requires a wire.


Anthony Nguyen, systems technician, sets up laptops for new teachers for 2023-24. Photo courtesy of RBUSD


The district schools, built an average of 70 years ago, also present a challenge to retro-fit them for all of the wiring.

Each school has a “LITT” – lead instructional technology teacher. 

“You have a LITT you can go to, or put in an (electronic) help desk ticket,” said Supt. Wesley. 

These are teachers with a full schedule, who also act as the tech lead at a school. LITT staff are now the first on the cloud as the I.T. team prepares to move all district employees there next.

TOSA – teachers on special assignment – are another wing of I.T. These are partial teachers, who help teach technology-related lessons and now lead the digital citizenship program.


Then and now

Supt. Wesley started her career as a teacher in 1997.

“I had a chalkboard, with chalk,” she said. “I got a whiteboard in my last year teaching and thought it was the coolest thing.”

She also used overhead projectors. Today, the equivalent is Smart TVs in each classroom with share-my- screen capability from the teacher’s laptop, and a “document camera” which acts as the modern overhead, projecting handwriting to the Smart TV.

The funding which provided much of this for RBUSD is now drying up.

With an annual budget of $2-$6 million – depending on year-to-year projects – the district I.T. department will use the rest of its money from Measure Q (2012) in 2023-24.

“We’re going to have to figure out how to (fund it) moving forward,” said Wesley, noting that money for future I.T. may be part of a potential bond measure, which the Redondo Unified school board has hired a consultant to explore, and looks to decide on this fall.

“It’s going to encroach on the general fund,” Wesley said. 



Board Member Elder works in cybersecurity for his day-job, and thus is involved with school district I.T. He monitors team activity during the summer too.

“They’ve just come off a pretty long sprint,” he said. 

While an I.T. funding source remains undetermined beyond this year, Elder keeps an eye on that too – some pandemic money being spent on I.T. will run out as well. 

“At that point, we have to make some difficult decisions,” Elder said. 

I.T. costs involve particular conundrums.

“If you make a bad technology choice, and you end up having to replace it, it’s expensive all over again,” Elder said.

Last year, for security, he recommended and I.T. has implemented, “multi-factor authentication” – adding a code beyond username and password for certain staff to log in; those with access to student records, district financial information and other sensitive data.

“Every dollar you’re spending on cybersecurity, it’s another dollar you’re not spending in the classroom,” Elder said, explaining how the district weighs those expenses against the value of preventing bad things in the cyber realm.

What is the biggest threat to a school district in cybersecurity?

“The scary one now is they take all of your data and threaten to release it unless you pay them,” Elder said. “Usernames and passwords, student records, medical records… If those things are released, that would be catastrophic.”

The summer work to move e-mail to the cloud is related to this. 

The cloud offers 24/7 Microsoft monitoring so someone can react to a breach faster, whereas a school district with in-house e-mail could be hacked on a weekend when no one is around to detect it.

Another advantage to moving to the cloud, Elder said, is that the attending physical infrastructure is not on the district site, so in case of a fire or earthquake, it is unaffected.



I.T. team leader Garcia started with RBUSD last October, after serving as the director of technology at another South Bay School District.

“(The I.T. team) are definitely critical individuals,” said Garcia. “A lot of times, it’s behind the scenes, insuring all systems are go, go, go.”

One of her main goals at RBUSD has been the digital citizenship lessons.

“I hold this one dear,” she said. “How to use technology effectively. How to use it appropriately. How do you stay safe online?”

The digital citizenship curriculum includes information literacy, digital footprint, cybersecurity and a part for parents too – to be aware of what kids may be exposed to and how their posts may be distributed. This lesson is still in the planning phase.

“How to (be smart about what you post) on TikTok, Instagram,” Garcia said. “I doubt any of the kiddos use Facebook.”

Garcia has worked in school I.T. for 18 years.

“What drastically changed was COVID,” she said. “How to put out core curriculum online. Education in the I.T. world changed.”

In college at Cal State L.A., she was a Computer Information Systems minor, and started as a teacher’s aide in the Lennox School District, teaching computer information systems for a year before she was offered a job in their district office. 

Garcia, talking to Easy Reader by phone Monday, got another call. It was an I.T. development within RBUSD. She had to go. 

Could she tell Easy Reader what it was?

No. Not everything in I.T. is for public consumption.

As far as what is, a total of 9,452 I.T. help desk tickets were processed in the district last year, anything from I-forgot-my-password to my-laptop-is-busted, to something technicians have never heard before.

“You’re hoping to clear projects faster than they’re added to the list,” said Elder. “For the most part, the I.T. team, they’re invisible. But it takes a lot of work to keep a network the size of a school district up and running.” ER


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