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Members of the MA tech team Joey Starkey and Sam Terfa sit in their new tech office at the Mendota Heights campus. Photo by Aidan Keefe.

Tech team transitions to Mendota

How the tech team has adjusted to the explosion at North campus and the loss of server equipment

It’s no surprise that everyone has faced challenges and obstacles in moving to the Mendota campus, but the often overlooked challenges are those of the tech team.

Even before the first day of school, the tech team was hard at work setting up the Mendota campus’s technological resources, but perhaps the team’s biggest challenge is that almost all of them are new to the tech team.

“The person with the most tenure on the team besides Merry Mattson is Jonathan Bird, and he is only a year and a half into Minnehaha,” said Joey Starkey, one of the many new faces on the tech team. “Everybody on the team is figuring out the things that were in place, and trying to integrate it into the things that were working before, but also now building it from scratch. It’s a lot harder starting from zero than building on top.”

Starkey joined the tech team right after the explosion, because he was hired by Bird.

“[Jonathan Bird] basically was calling when they decided they needed more help, and said, ‘Hey, we’d like to add you to our team,’ so I decided, let’s do it!” Starkey said.

The explosion also destroyed the Minnehaha server room and data center, (which supplied both campuses internet), along with seriously injuring Patrick Gibbons, a tech team member who worked with the Minnehaha server last year. Gibbons is still recovering and has not returned to work.

Other new faces on the tech team include physics teacher Sam Terfa and band teacher Ryan Larson, who continue with a lighter teaching job while now focusing on tech issues.

According to Starkey, one of the biggest problems the tech team handled this year was setting up a new school network.

“The network here is a brand new network, and building a network from scratch is way beyond my expertise, and that’s where Dan Cummings [the network consultant to Minnehaha] came into play,” Starkey said. “He did a lot of work to set that up.”

Starkey is a full-time employee of the tech team. This year he has done a lot of work setting up printers, distributing hundreds of iPads and computers, putting those devices into a program called, ‘jamf,’ (which allows the tech team to control these devices), reinstalling software on computers and installing smart boards in classrooms.

However, this was not without its challenges.

“It’s a lot more challenging when you don’t have access to the people who had set it up in the past, and you’re trying to build off of what they had put into motion. It’s like you’re executing someone’s plan and they’re not there,” Starkey said.

Another person on the tech team is Sam Terfa, a science teacher at Minnehaha who joined the team this year along with teaching AP physics.

“I’m told that last year, at a bad time during the start of the school year, there would be up to 50 open tech requests that needed fixing,” Terfa said. “We had 126 tech requests at our max, and we’re still sitting at around 50 right now. It’s more just been the volume of tech requests and things that people need, and they need them rightly so to do their jobs.”

Although the tech team has had its fair share of problems, they have also made incredible accomplishments as well.

“We deployed all the middle school iPads and all the 9th grade iPads, and we had to do it when the people who had set them up left last year, so we were going in kind of blind,” Terfa said. “It was really kind of amazing. Also, the fact that we were able to get this building up and running in a week and half was astounding. From when I toured [the Mendota Campus] until now, the transformation is amazing.”

“I’m grateful for the support of the Minnehaha community, because everyone has given us so much patience, and so much support,” Starkey said. “It’s really humbling, and it makes me so happy.”

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