By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
ST. JOSEPH — Bryan Parsons is well accustomed to computers.
Parsons, 44, graduated from St. Joseph High School in 1990, and went on to join the United States Air Force. During his time there, he became involved in avionics computer system repair to support the U.S. during the Gulf War while he was stationed in California.
After the military, Parsons moved back to St. Joseph, where he helped build Berrien County’s first internet service provider called Parrett Internet Technologies.
He then became a network engineer for a local technology firm and has worked in the technology industry for more than 25 years.
Parsons, who now serves as director of technology for the St. Joseph school district, sat down with Herald-Palladium staff writer Tony Wittkowski to talk about his job and how important technology has become for schools.
What are your responsibilities here as director of technology?
Sometimes I empty the trash (laughter). Basically, I and others handle the district’s network connectivity, internet access, access to online programs. It would probably be easier to name something that doesn’t run through IT nowadays to be honest with you. I mean even the HVAC system has a server. It’s basically ensuring the technology is accessible to the students and teachers.
When did you first start working here?
Six years ago.
What did you do before this?
Before this I was a network engineer for a few different companies. Immediately before I came here, I was working for Walgreens Corporate in Chicago. I’ve worked in Kalamazoo and I’ve worked for a local credit union as their technology director.
What made you want to come back to St. Joe and work here?
It was an opportunity for me to come back where I graduated from. I’ve done a lot of work as a contractor for the district throughout the years. My kids both go to St. Joe. They were going to St. Joe at the time, so it was an opportunity to be a part of their childhood but also give back to the place that gave me so much and such a great opportunity.
How did you first become interested in technology?
I’ve always liked to figure out how things work. I liked to take things apart and hopefully put them back together as a kid. As far as computers, I’ve always been drawn to them.
Whether it’s programming or fixing them or making systems talk to each other. … I’m not an artist, but I like the creativity of building networks. I can’t even draw a smiley face very well, but I can see that vision of a big network and how that all fits together.
With the series bond passing this year, the One-to-One initiative taking off at the middle school and the Bring Your Own Device program working at the high school, where do you see technology going with the school district?
Obviously, we’re building capacity. We have 2,000 on this wireless network here at the high school every day. We’re looking at the next generation of wireless controllers and wireless access points. Lots of things are going web-based, so it increases the capacity to the internet.
Plus, the more and more systems we use the more and more difficult it becomes to manage them. You can have the best infrastructure in the world, but if you can’t log into it, it doesn’t do you much good. Systems integrations is huge push right now without having to manually touch it.
I see all these kids with their own tablets and smart phones. Looking at how many devices students have these days, do you every wish you had that technology when you were growing up?
Absolutely, yeah. In a way it’s interesting to see how comfortable students are with technology. I mean, I remember when the Atari 2600 came out and we thought that was pretty neat. Same with pong before that. But now they’re exposed to this on an everyday basis. It’s a part of their life.
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 19, 2016)