School Board considers drive-thru tech center

Mike Cozad, District Technology Coordinator, pitches a new Technology Service Center to school board members during a workshop. The addition of a drive-through to the plans allowed for the project to be funded from federal covid relief.

Nathan Wilson | Reporter
Mike Cozad, District Technology Coordinator for Natchitoches Parish School Board made a plea for help to board members at a planning workshop Feb. 17.
“I have a problem and I need your guy’s help,” Cozad began, “It’s a problem that will only get worse as time goes along, and it isn’t going away on its own.” He described a lack of space dedicated to the volume of equipment that his department handles as the district’s technology needs grow. He then outlined ways the issue hampers his team’s ability to meet the needs of the district.
Cozad indicated that his team doubled from three in 2017 to six in 2022, but the volume of computers and other connected devices had grown from 600 to over 7,000 over the same period. He identified a lack of storage space as preventing his department from purchasing in volumes large enough to qualify for better prices on bulk purchases.

This article published in the Feb. 24, 2022, print edition

The facilities he uses also lack appropriate unloading areas that provide safer and easier methods of receiving equipment. Recalling one shipment, he described the efficiency and security issues that arise from transporting piecemeal from his current receiving area to the storage facilities elsewhere in the district. “one freight delivery… weighing a total of 7.5 tons, (I will) move that 7 and a half tons a total of 16.4 miles.”
Cozad also described the hassle that the current setup causes when providing services. The district’s technology storage is decentralized and there is no established location for visitors to retrieve equipment. His team must then travel to meet staff, students and parents to deliver technology or claim it. He described the process of returning equipment for repairs, “You had to make an appointment with me, we met in a parking lot, we met here, you had to come to the back door of the school… and then you get some help.”
Cozad posed the crux of the problem, “We need a place where any teacher, parent, student can walk in anytime during business hours and say ‘hey I have a problem with this device’ and get service on the spot.” His solution is to construct a dedicated technology service center near the district’s media center. He already requested and was approved for funding for the project by the Louisiana Department of Education.
Describing the new building, Cozad pointed to schematics with a dedicated warehouse space and a tech support drive-through. The drive-through was essential for approval, he explained, “We had to tie this to covid in order for the covid funds to be able to pay for it.”
Remarking on the support his team could provide with the new facility, Cozad envisioned a scenario, “You don’t have to get all your kids out of the car and go inside, you can drive up to the window, hit the button, hand it to my guy, he’ll give you a receipt for it.”
The addition of a drive-through to the technology center plans next to the media center on Royal Street allowed for the project to be funded from federal covid relief. Photos by Nathan Wilson

Cozad had one more detail to unveil: one side of the building would be the new site of the Natchitoches virtual academy and have additional space for outfitting new teachers. To make his point, he presented another scenario “Isn’t it funny we say ‘hey welcome to the district, great things are happening in Natchitoches, uh shoot this guy an email and at some point you’ll meet him in a parking lot and get a MacBook.”
Near the end of Cozad’s presentation, School Board President Steven Harris clarified, “So are you suggesting that this is not going to cost the district any money?” Cozad’s affirmation was met with Harris’ instant approval, “This is a no brainer!”