Oregon Trail tech meisters make the most of IT
On the former British TV comedy "The IT Crowd," affable information technology assistants spend their days casually lounging in their office and responding to employee problems with the one-liner, "Have you tried turning it off and on again?"
Trey Mertens and David Hayden take their jobs far more seriously.
Two of the three technology specialists who work to maintain technological operations and education throughout Oregon Trail School District, Mertens and Hayden split tasks at Sandy High School and each have two other schools where they conduct repairs, troubleshoot computers and handle most digitally related needs. Martens works for Naas Elementary School and Boring Middle School, while Hayden helps out at Firwood Elementary School and Welches Elementary.
In the district as a whole, the technology department oversees 2,524 student devices, 336 staff computers, 182 projectors, 168 document cameras, 103 smart boards and 127 printers, all of which collectively served more than 4,000 people.
Mertens and Hayden don't do it all alone, but they do a lot.
Mertens, a 2015 graduate of Crowder College in Missouri, with an associate's degree in computer and network support, has been interested in technology since he was an adolescent.
"I had a really big interest in technology starting in middle school," Mertens says, noting that by high school he got involved in music-related technology for theater productions. "(Technology) was a growing field, and when I eventually decided to go to college (I went for it) ... I took this job just starting out in the field (while) looking for an entry-level job in technology.
"It's turned out to be very rewarding," he adds. "It's cool to be able to assist in the learning process through technology."
For Hayden, an Oregon native, technology has been a lifelong subject of intrigue. He tells stories of watching his father fix computers when he was young and attempting some early, less-successful "repairs" himself.
Hayden graduated from Clackamas Community College in 2014, earning an associate's degree in computer network administration before taking a job with the Gladstone School District.
"You learn that it's a field that makes decent money (and) helps people," Hayden says of a career in IT's initial appeal to him. "Working in all of these buildings ... not being from Sandy, it's nice to get to hear the local thought. Everyone is really welcoming."
Besides the sheer volume of demand, Mertens and Hayden say the job itself is rewarding.
"For our position specifically, (one of the biggest challenges is) being at the mercy of technology that fails unexpectedly," Mertens says. "Our top priority is classroom technology. ... That's what will inhibit the teaching process. ... Any time we have (staff computers or projectors) down in the classroom, we have to drop whatever we're doing and go."
This, he explains, is a still a natural and also somewhat welcome challenge.
"You have to think outside of the box a lot," Mertens says. "It's an ongoing challenge, but that's what makes it interesting."
Aside from teachers and administrators, Mertens adds, many of the classified employees across departments work closely together.
"We rely heavily on the maintenance department," he says. "Considering what their workload is, they do a great job.
Hayden agrees. "They've got our backs and we've got their backs."
As the Oregon Trail district celebrates its week of appreciation for classified employees March 6-10, Mertens and Hayden say they feel their roles are valued.
"There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes that students don't realize but teachers and other staff do, and they're appreciative and understanding," Mertens explains. "Overall it's a really cool experience."