The following is a letter for our school’s “Caring Connection”- but its just such a great story I thought I’d share it here. I think Sandra, who builds and rides her own Harley, who has a PhD in linguistics, who has a journeyman’s license in electricity; I think this story is a good read, and her contributions inside and outside the classroom are incredible.
Dear Monte Vista Community,
Sandra Simons-Ailes will be retiring this year after serving as a teacher and innovator in education for 39 1/2 years. She pioneered NetDays with her group Network New Mexico, installing state of the art computer networks in 102 public, private and charter schools around the state using parent and community volunteer labor. Sandra led New Mexico’s NetDay effort from 1996 to 2001, donating her services as a licensed telecom contractor to design and plan the installation, and working with school groups to coordinate the volunteer effort. Hundreds of hours of her time, her professional expertise, thousands of miles to all corners of the state in her truck, this effort at bottom-up school improvement and reform was recognized with plaques from the APS Board and State Public Education Department. Sandra kicked off school networking across the state at a time when many school administrations felt that networking would only prove useful to their district’s business offices.
It started here at Monte Vista, and I was one of the volunteers who helped go through attics and basements and drill through block to pull cable throughout this old building and to the other buildings on campus in 1991 for our LocalTalk network with a black and white Macintosh in each classroom. Monte Vista became the flagship for the district, being the first school, public or private, to have a campus-wide network in the state. Sandra became the de facto expert in networking, on top of her classroom duties, and the people whose job it was to network buildings welcomed Sandra’s expertise. Working under Sandra’s leadership, Monte Vista upgraded our network with the first campus-wide Ethernet network in APS in 1994, and then, in 2001, we replaced that cable with fiber direct to the classroom, ensuring upgradability of our school’s network performance for years to come by only changing out devices, not cabling. Interestingly, it was 17 years after our first network in 1991 before APS invested in our school’s network by upgrading our fiber backbone and building a telecom server room in the lab. By then bond funds had installed networks at all the other district schools and upgraded the 25 networks Sandra had installed with volunteers in APS schools. Monte Vista was first, and last. But then we hadn’t needed the District’s help to get going.
Her leadership wasn’t limited to building the network infrastructure. Sandra inspired teachers like myself to teach children to be authors in the digital world rather than consumers, still and forever a value here at Monte Vista. She exported this vision across the 13 schools of the Albuquerque High cluster by writing professional development grants that brought in more than $3 million dollars over eight years to train teachers, and buy hardware and software. Her influence has reached across the state, and for the people who know, Sandra has been a force molding technology access and use for students, teachers, the district, and the state.
I write this then to increase awareness about a small portion of what Sandra has done for Monte Vista. I know as she gets ready to retire in May she will need to give up the APS laptop which has been of benefit to her, and she will need to purchase a new one quickly to transfer years of stored professional work. As a going away present, I thought our community could contribute toward the cost of a gift of a laptop. Whatever amount we collect toward that end we’ll give to Sandra, with consideration and love. The collections will be gathered by Kathy Montoya in the front office. Please consider making a contribution. Checks can be made payable to Monte Vista Elementary School.
and thank you Sandra.