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Little Tech, Big Impact
Michael Ducy
Opscode
@mfdii
Little Tech, Big Impact
or Putting Tech to Work for Your Community
Michael Ducy
Opscode
@mfdii
Elementary School
Boundary Realignment
Some facts about
Westerville City Schools
Call to
Action!
The Realignment Committee
"An informed citizenry is the only true
repository of the public will…The people
cannot be safe without information."
The PTA Meeting
The Realignment
Committee Meeting
The Board Meeting
There are rules!
The little tech
grep|sed|tr
The Spreadsheet
• Allowed for rapid experimentation
• Allowed for looking at the data from different
perspectives
• Allowe...
The Maps
Scenario Building
Scenario Building over Beer
The first success
The second success
Getting called to
the principal’s office
“For the ''superior morality',' of which we
hear so much, we too would desire to be
thankful: at the same time, it were bu...
Lean School Board Committee
The final win
Next time
• Create a site/app that allows anyone to create
scenarios
• Solve for the “optimal scenarios”
• Leverage open s...
Little Tech, Big Impact - Monktoberfest 2013
Little Tech, Big Impact - Monktoberfest 2013
Little Tech, Big Impact - Monktoberfest 2013
Little Tech, Big Impact - Monktoberfest 2013
Little Tech, Big Impact - Monktoberfest 2013
Little Tech, Big Impact - Monktoberfest 2013
Little Tech, Big Impact - Monktoberfest 2013
Little Tech, Big Impact - Monktoberfest 2013
Little Tech, Big Impact - Monktoberfest 2013
Little Tech, Big Impact - Monktoberfest 2013
Little Tech, Big Impact - Monktoberfest 2013
Little Tech, Big Impact - Monktoberfest 2013
Little Tech, Big Impact - Monktoberfest 2013
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Little Tech, Big Impact - Monktoberfest 2013

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How to use a little technology to impact your community. This presentation details my experience contributing to a School Boundary Realignment process and how just a little tech made things easier for the community in Westerville, Ohio.

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  • Hello
  • Longer title
  • Artists rendering of my wife and I in bed. My wife roles over to me one evening and tells me she wants to talk about something.
  • Anyone that has been married long enough or with a SO for a a long time immediately knows that “It’s a trap”
  • So now I am in bed with Admiral Akbar, and Akbar begins to explain to me the Elementary School Boundary Realignment process that was taking place in our district.
  • You see, some Elementary Schools in our district had too many kids assigned to them and thus they were “Overflowing”. Kids would be bussed to other schools that had open seats.
  • 11th largest district in Ohio“Excellent with Distinction”~ 15,000 students14 Elementary Schools6500 Students in Elementary School Boundaries
  • So my wife and I helped to collect petition signatures to stop the realignment processand getting to know other parents in the district.I also started studying the data that the school board was publishing on the realignment.
  • The board had formed a realignment committee. The committee was made up of principals, school administrators, and 3 community members. The committee also hired a geographic information systems firm to help generate data and maps for about $25,000.
  • Of course the goal of releasing the data was to inform the public and help them understand how the realignment would impact them.
  • data
  • data
  • map
  • Shortly after me wife asked for help, our local elementary school had a PTA meeting. One of the goals of this meeting were to talk about the realignment options, and what our school community was going to do about how we were getting divided disproportionately. I attended the meeting and then volunteered to 1) talk at the board meeting, and 2) go to future committee meetings
  • After the petition signing action I attended a Realignment Committee meeting to see what was being discussed and the plans of the committee. The meetings were open to the public but the public were not allowed to make comments during the meeting. Some of the committee members were really excited to have a new member of the public in attendance, and sought me out to introduce themselves. I thought that was great. What wasn’t great was the lack of participation by the committee members. Also evident was frustration of the community committee members, with one wanting to quit.
  • Later that same day, there was a School Board meeting. At this meeting we presented our petition to halt the realignment and to follow the guidelines in board policy
  • There are clearly defined rules for the school board to use for realignment, and instead of following these rules, they were ignoring them and going with “the vote of the people”. Often the vote of the people was completely skewed towards the richer neighborhoods in Westerville
  • At some point after the board meeting I realized that this problem is a rather simple problem to solve with computers. But I didn’t feel like building a full fledged program to solve for the “Optimal Solution”, so I did what anyone would do, I used excel.
  • The data was all available, even if it was in PDF format
  • More data
  • The district was divided into “planning blocks” based on neighborhoods.
  • The first thing I needed to do was get the data into excel. The data the school board published was in a PDF file. Luckily Apple Preview allowed me to copy and paste the data, and then I could clean the data up using a bit of unix CLI magic.
  • The spreadsheet
  • While the data was interesting to some, the maps were the things most people relied on to make decisions on which realignment plan was best. The maps were a visual representation of “neighborhood schools” and people could easily see where they lived, and what school they would be going to. The problem was that the maps were generated by the GIS company to whom the district outsourced the data manipulation. We needed the data from this mapping company. Luckily the district was more than happy to get us the data, and I got the data in a KML format where I could easily import them into google maps.
  • Our map via google earth
  • At this point we had the tools we needed in the community to start building our own scenarios. I sent the spreadsheet I created over to some parents that I was collaborating with, and one mother (Brea) took it and started coming up with different plans. Before she had the spreadsheet she was doing everything on paper, and then coloring in maps to create the visualization.
  • This was an example of a map Brea colored by hand. This really shows the passion she had for finding a solution.
  • After Brea created a few different options, her, another parent, and myself met (first for coffee and then for beer) to go over the scenarios and refine them.
  • After we built our scenarios, we sent them over to the realignment committee. What was really satisfying was that the committee took one of our scenarios and used it almost verbatim.
  • The next success came in the form of me volunteering to sit on the committee.This came about after a committee meeting where we sat and watched the committee shuffle paper around to try and make a decision on what needed to be done. The committee would then make a decision, and then send the changes the GIS company. They had to beg the GIS company to turn the changes around quickly, which was usually a day. After watching this madness, I volunteered to take my Google Earth and Spreadsheet and run scenarios on the fly during the committee meetings.
  • Of course, I eneded up getting myself in trouble. The committee chair called me into his office to discuss a “statement made on social media”
  • The troubling tweet
  • And while I was a bit of a dick in that tweet, the reality is that perspective is everything. And so while the committee had positive intents, the public opinion of the committee was poor, and thus the reality that they had to deal with.
  • Using the spreadsheet was very successful for the committee, and the community. Instantly, the committee could suggest changes and understand how those changes would impact students. Think of the ideas that are being talked about in books such as Lean Analytics.
  • It was really awesome for not only the committee, and the community to see fast progress and results. What was extremely interesting was how much the certain members of the committee weren’t familiar with the data. They hadn’t studied the data, weren’t familiar with it, had no means to test ideas, and didn’t understand how changes they were suggesting would impact the data. Members of the community came up to me and thanked me for volunteering and improving the process of building scenarios during the meetings.
  • The board delayed the decision in the end.
  • Even though the realignment was delayed, it is still coming. So how can we improve the process next time?
  • Transcript of "Little Tech, Big Impact - Monktoberfest 2013"

    1. 1. Little Tech, Big Impact Michael Ducy Opscode @mfdii
    2. 2. Little Tech, Big Impact or Putting Tech to Work for Your Community Michael Ducy Opscode @mfdii
    3. 3. Elementary School Boundary Realignment
    4. 4. Some facts about Westerville City Schools
    5. 5. Call to Action!
    6. 6. The Realignment Committee
    7. 7. "An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will…The people cannot be safe without information."
    8. 8. The PTA Meeting
    9. 9. The Realignment Committee Meeting
    10. 10. The Board Meeting
    11. 11. There are rules!
    12. 12. The little tech
    13. 13. grep|sed|tr
    14. 14. The Spreadsheet • Allowed for rapid experimentation • Allowed for looking at the data from different perspectives • Allowed “anyone” to create scenarios
    15. 15. The Maps
    16. 16. Scenario Building
    17. 17. Scenario Building over Beer
    18. 18. The first success
    19. 19. The second success
    20. 20. Getting called to the principal’s office
    21. 21. “For the ''superior morality',' of which we hear so much, we too would desire to be thankful: at the same time, it were but blindness to deny that this ''superior morality'' is properly rather an ''inferior criminality',' produced not by greater love of Virtue, but by greater perfection of Police; and of that far subtler and stronger Police, called Public Opinion.” - Thomas Carlyle
    22. 22. Lean School Board Committee
    23. 23. The final win
    24. 24. Next time • Create a site/app that allows anyone to create scenarios • Solve for the “optimal scenarios” • Leverage open source/real GIS systems • How can this be applied to other problems?
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