At TCEA, we can’t help but be excited about our incredible members and all the ways they are advancing teaching and learning with technology. Each month, we like to shine the spotlight on one member to share what drives and inspires him or her. We hope our readers can find value in their stories. You might just discover an idea or two to use in your own education journey.
Today’s member spotlight focuses on an esteemed tech director and longtime friend and supporter of TCEA: Lee Sleeper. In addition to being the current Director of Operations and Technology for Bullard ISD—a 4A district with 2,600 students to support—Lee is also the head of the tech crew every year at the TCEA Convention & Exposition. This means he’s volunteered hundreds of hours to making sure our annual event runs smoothly for the thousands of educators who attend. And he is a past president of TCEA!
A Long Career for a Digital Pioneer
Lee describes his career path as “serendipitous.” First, he spent a 30-year career as a journalist—including public relations, publicity, photography, advertising, and teaching. Twenty-two of those years were spent at Sul Ross State University where Lee and his departments were early adopters of technology. “We saw the potential of how technology could benefit us. We were one of the first universities to move traditional typesetting to a desktop publishing system, and we were early experimenters with computerizing all athletic stats. We also were ‘pioneers’ in digital layout and design, moving the university catalog to the computer in the late 1980s.”
When he started at Bullard ISD in 2002, the district only had about 350 computers, many of which were over five years old. Lee describes what it was like when he started: “For those in the networking world, the flat network was connected via hubs. A normal day meant traveling to each campus to reboot the network after broadcast storms brought it to a halt.” Today, things in Bullard are just a little bit different. The district has approximately 2,200 computers and a switched network with 10Gbps connections to the network operations center. “We have gone from two servers in 2002 to 12 physical servers and 36 virtual servers.”
No Rest for the Busy!
In his position at Bullard ISD, Lee has administrative oversight of transportation, maintenance, custodial, food service, and technology—all of which keeps his day full. He describes: “An average day begins about 5 a.m. with a drive through district facilities to make sure we do not have any major problems. I try to walk each of our six campuses at least once a week. My first staff meeting with my operations’ coordinator is at 6:30 a.m. to look at ‘opportunities’ facing us for the day. I meet with my technology coordinator about 7:45 a.m. to go over the day. The day usually comes to an end about 4:30 p.m. by monitoring the two-way radio to ensure our afternoon bus routes finish without complications. Board meeting nights and committee meeting nights can take the day to 9 p.m.” Luckily, Lee enjoys what he does and particularly the variety each day brings. He describes it as his dream job because he knows he will never be bored or lack for things to do!
Looking Out for What’s Next
Lee isn’t looking to stop innovating any time soon. There are a number of initiatives he is working on at Bullard. “On the tech side, we have qualified for E-Rate discounts on equipment the past three years, allowing us to replace our wireless system. This year, we will upgrade all backbone switches. We are implementing a STEM approach at all levels, and I am fortunate to be involved in that implementation.”
To keep up with what’s new and valuable in ed tech, Lee’s favorite resource is the collective knowledge of his fellow tech directors, with a little help from the TCEA PD team. “When I was on the TCEA board, my colleagues on the board were my greatest resource. Since then, the availability of TEC-SIG has been a great benefit. We began implementing a districtwide STEM program last summer, and TCEA’s PD instructors and workshops have been invaluable.”
Lee’s Tips for Tech Directors
When asked what his best tip for new tech directors is, Lee had not one, but three pieces of advice to follow:
- Know your network
- Know your teachers
- Know what they need
It’s a great philosophy to lead by and one that shows exactly why Lee Sleeper has been such an asset to Bullard ISD (not to mention to the TCEA Tech Crew!) for so long.
We hope you enjoyed this peek into the life’s work of one of our members. To learn about other innovative educators transforming education, you can read some of our previous member spotlight posts here, here, and here. Do you know a TCEA member who deserves a little spotlighting? Email me your suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.