WinstonNet's Board of Directors includes the chief technology officers of the ten member organizations. They organizations are: Forsyth County Government, Forsyth Technical Community College, Idealliance, Wake Forest University, Wake Forest University Health Sciences, Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, Winston-Salem City Government, Winston-Salem State University, Salem College/Academy and North Carolina School of the Arts. The combined knowledge and influence of these directors puts WinstonNet in a unique position to understand the needs of the community and operate within the political climate to implement innovative technology programs. WinstonNet is a leader in the community and able to collaborate with business, education, government and social organizations. Its success is measured by the programs we have implemented and their impact on the community.
Current Projects 2008:
Computer Labs: On June 12th, 2003, WinstonNet dedicated its Computer Lab project at the Carl H. Russell, Sr., Recreation Center. Over the next twelve months, the community lab project was extended to include 30 sites with free computer access for children and adults. Forsyth Technical Community College and Wake Forest University provided the leadership and resources necessary to develop and implement the project. In 2004, WinstonNet received grants from Microsoft Corporation and Cisco, Inc. ($508,000) to make the software and hardware available to complete the labs. Today there are 44 computer labs operating in city recreation centers, churches, magnet schools, libraries, and community YMCA/YWCAs serving a large percentage of the digitally disadvantaged community with free high-speed access to the Internet and to Microsoft applications. These labs use a Citrix based thin-client model which allows us to use older computers donated by local government and businesses. Technical support is provided by a local firm and financed through WinstonNet’s operating funds. We currently have 3,500+ email accounts, with over 75,000 end-user sessions recorded in 2006.
The Beehive a Community Web Portal: In late 2005, WinstonNet partnered with One Economy, a national non-profit organization, using a grant from Cisco ($30,000) to build a local community resource web portal. Focus groups from the areas of education, service agencies, business and government provided input for the portal design. The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Beehive web portal was launched in November 2006. The portal is bilingual and written at a 5th grade reading level, filled with important on-line information and an easy way for our citizens to access information that matters in their lives: money, health, jobs, family, immigration, filing taxes, government services, computer training/support and more. The Forsyth County Library has taken the responsibility to support and maintain the local site information. An interesting statistic; according to One Economy the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Beehive is number three in the nation for most “hits” to its local web portal.
Computer Training Bridge: WinstonNet partnered with Forsyth County Libraries in 2006 on a grant to develop a sustainable computer training program. In October, a three year grant was awarded from NC State Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) ($200,000) to hire a coordinator to run the Computer Training Bridge program. This position reports to the Forsyth County Library System and provides training in the WinstonNet computer labs. The program has made great strides since January 2007; developed a volunteer base of 40+ trainers, created a standard curriculum of basic and intermediate computer courses, offers a certification program and offers on-line class registration available to everyone in the community. These free classes cover MS Office basics/intermediate skills, tutoring for students taking the NC State Computer Competency Exam, after-school homework help, resume building techniques, Internet job search, using email, web browsing, health seminars and much more. Many of these classes are taught in Spanish at community centers with large Hispanic participants. In the fiscal year 2006/2007 we completed 189 free computer classes with a total attendance of 996 citizens. We have also partnered with The Adaptables, a non-profit organization, to offer classes to the sight impaired and physically challenged computer users. Our goal is to demonstrate the need for this valuable service and work with county officials to transition the coordinator to a permanent position within the Forsyth County Library after the 3-year grant is completed.
K12 Student Home Computer Project: In the spring of 2007, WinstonNet began discussions with Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools (WSFCS) and a number of community leaders to design a program that would place computers in K12 student’s home. These leaders include the mayor, school superintendent, school board president, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school district CIO, chairwoman for the county commissioners and key business leaders. A proposal was developed that spans over three years to demonstrate the impact of home computing on the student’s school performance and attendance, improve parent/teacher communication, and enhance the student and families technical skills needed for 21st century economy. The project focuses on four middle schools (approx. 550 students each year) starting with the 6th grade. These schools have the highest percentage (85-95%) of students receiving assistance on the federal free/reduced lunch program. The proposal addresses critical areas of funding, curriculum integration, teachers’ professional development, technical staffing in the schools, affordable computers and broadband connections. The leaders plan to take the proposal to both public and private funding sources and are extremely optimistic that money would be available to start the project in the 2008/2009 academic year.
Supercomputing: Supercomputing initiatives were developed during 2003 and 2004. Winston-Salem State University hosted several conferences on Supercomputing that attracted researchers from around North Carolina to discuss grid related computing technologies. One of the most innovative demonstrations of supercomputing technologies was held in November of 2003 as WinstonNet participated with the Alban Elved Dance Company to demonstrate real-time supercomputing in support of the arts. In June of 2004, U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao visited the Piedmont Triad Research Park to recognize Forsyth Technical Community College's participation in a $5M grant for supporting educational activities related to Biotechnology. Also, in 2004, Targacept, Inc, joined WinstonNet and began a cooperative program to demonstrate state-of-the-art grid computing technologies in partnership with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. Discussions on the development of a WinstonNet Supercomputing Center continued as construction began on several new buildings in the Piedmont Triad Community Research Park (PTRP). One of the buildings includes a state of the art data center that holds a large mulit-node high performance computing system owned by Wake Forest University and will house the WinstonNet server farm by the end of 2007. Plans are to increase the performance capabilities and eventually provide computational support to emerging businesses requiring high performance computing.
WinstonNet Regional Education Group: As part of the 2005 BETA (Business Education Technology Alliance) recommendations, the NC General Assembly provided funding for the e-NC Authority to conduct a study on Developing Regional Education Networks. The results of the study were completed in May 2006, the recommendation was for the state to invest $24 million over 3 years in a statewide network to support the public schools by expanding the current North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), NCREN provides connectivity and networking for the North Carolina’s Universities and some of the private universities. In July 2007 the State of NC awarded $296,000 to WinstonNet, Inc. to be the first consortium to organize under the BETA initiative with additional funding available over the next two years. The WinstonNet Regional Education Group consists of ten Local Education Agencies (LEAs) in five outlying counties. The consortium has the opportunity to shape the agenda for the regional support model at the state-wide level. The concept is to bring together K-16 organizations within in a fairly contained geography to jointly purchase, manage and share edeucational resources through their ICT (Information Communications Technology) infrastructures. With support from the State and funding from other sources, the burden of local management of technology can be centralized and efficiencies obtained. In addition, through joint action LEAs can maximize their e-rate reimbursements as a consortium. The first step is to connect the 10 LEAs to WinstonNet’s GigaPoP by the end of 2007 which will give them state-of-the-art high speed access to the NCREN. The key to making the most effective use of the technology resources is to standardize as much as possible centrally and to deliver support locally. The primary focus is, and will remain, in improving learning outcomes for students. The support from the State will provide funding to: Cover the federal non e-rate expenses for networking to connect the LEAs to the WinstonNet GigaPoP; Develop thin client delivery model in the schools; Implement summer workshops on curriculum integration to be delivered locally; Perform an assessment study to establish a benchmark on outcomes; Develop a regional disaster recovery strategy for IT.