Editor's note: This is the second story in a series featuring 2021 school retirees.
When Homewood-Flossmoor High School was forced to shut down in March 2020, all eyes turned to Gary Posing, director of information services, to implement a plan for how to bring students and faculty online for successful remote learning.
For 19 years, Posing has been the lead person responsible for all computer and technology equipment at the high school, a position that has grown in responsibility and importance as computers have become standard equipment in day-to-day classroom instruction and school operations.
Posing will turn the job over to the new director when he retires June 30.
Posing said for about the first two weeks of March 2020 the administration at H-F had been watching news of the COVID-19 virus’s spread and were trying to plan ahead. On March 13, when word came that H-F would be shutting down, it was Posing who knew how many Chromebooks H-F had available, where they were and how to get them to students.
H-F had a one-to-one supply of Chromebooks. They were kept in classrooms in the North and South buildings for student use. Those machines all had to be collected in one location, recorded and distributed. The monumental task was accomplished in less than 72 hours with the Technology Department’s staff of 10, and lots of help from other staff members.
“The one thing I really love about H-F, when that announcement was made on (March 12) and we said we needed help, you would not believe how many people came out of the woodwork to help us. Teachers and staff. That’s what’s so great about H-F,” Posing said.
He also credits staff with stepping up to incorporate technology. Two years prior to the pandemic shutdown, staff were doing online tutoring. Those two years gave staff time to experiment with remote learning and a chance to test the system.
“The good thing from my department, that (remote learning) piece was a challenge but not as big a challenge (in 2020) because we’d already used some of the tools that were out there,” he said. During the 2019-20 school year, Posing and tech coaches would use Google Meets as a means of testing the system. In remote learning, Google Meets became the go-to system for student-teacher communications.
A computer programmer by training, Posing started his career as the first tech director at Rich Township District 227 in 1985. He was one of three people working for Illinois school districts that had that job title. At one point, he spent a short time as an educational technology consultant, then worked for the Valley View School District for 17 years before coming to H-F.
H-F also was ready for the pandemic emergency because Posing had a hardware and software replacement schedule that he created.
“Remember, when I first got here (in 2001) we didn’t have the volume of equipment we have now. Each classroom had a computer, and we had a few labs. CAD had a lab.
Photography had a lab. The biggest challenge we had was in the equipment that was in the classrooms,” he recalled. “They were DTK computers and they were custom built. We had 30 of them and the parts were different in each of them.”
The Technology Department took inventory, started standardizing equipment and setting out a rotating schedule for three-year replacement cycles.
“All the staff and teacher machines are on a cycle now because we wanted to make sure the staff always had the same equipment,” he explained.
The Technology Department may be the place to go for help with a computer, but Posing is just as proud of the work he and his staff have done in helping students. For three years before COVID hit, the department was helping students experiment with virtual reality (VR) programming through independent study.
“They were actually creating something really unique and developed it into a class,” he said. “Now we have all the equipment, but for the last 18 months we couldn’t move forward with it. But it was actually an exciting program to be able to see that student work. One tried programming of drones. We were really starting to see some potential with what the kids were doing because the (programs) allowed for social interactions.”
He hopes the department will be able to pick up on that work again.
Posing said in retirement he will try and keep up with technology, but admits changes happen very fast.
In the meantime, he’ll slow down some. His children are giving him a trip to Las Vegas as a retirement gift, and he and his wife will do some traveling.