Sultan School District wins $50,000 grant from Microsoft for tech needs

SULTAN — It was a 59-second clip worth $50,000.

A YouTube video and a 250-word essay helped the small Sultan School District beat hundreds of school districts around the country to win a Microsoft contest.

The money will be used to buy software.

The funds will help bring Internet and software access to the district of 1,800 students, which might not otherwise be able to afford such technology.

The district entered the contest when parent Ryan Risenmay thought the students could benefit.

He has four daughters, between second and 10th grade, enrolled in the district.

“We want to prepare them for the future, and we don’t have equipment to support that,” Risenmay said.

The video shows the district’s technology director, Dave Moon, explaining why the district wants to create a remote desktop server farm, a collection of several computer servers.

This means students would be able to get access to the Sultan School District network from their home computers to use software, such as PowerPoint, for schoolwork.

The server farm would also allow students to surf the Internet on schoolgrounds from their personal computers and cellphones. The district would be able to restrict the sites they visit, Moon said.

“The idea is to allow students to bring their own devices and control it,” he said.

Students now do not have access to the Internet even if they are on schoolgrounds, Moon said.

The funds also would allow the district to purchase software filters to protect it from hacking and virus attacks.

The district is moving its server farm from a small trailer to a vacant building at Sultan Middle School for safety and maintenance reasons.

The district has 12 servers. With the prize money, it plans to purchase software to create four more. The district already has the hardware.

A single server, which allows 20 people to connect remotely, is priced at $2,400, Moon said.

“Initially we are allowing 100 people at the same time,” Moon said.

The district expects to receive the software in about five weeks.

To enter the competition, Moon and Risenmay worked on a video and short essay expressing the needs of the students and how the district plans to fill that need. Risenmay, who works as a Web content manager for a consulting and technology development company in Kirkland, videotaped Moon for a half-hour. He then volunteered about four hours to finish the clip.

The video was selected as one of three semifinalists from hundreds of entries across the country, and only 50 from Washington state, said Danna Brokaw, marketing manager for Microsoft Stores.

Since the grand prize winner was selected by votes, the district started a campaign asking the community to go to the Microsoft website every day and vote for its video.

Sultan School District was the only district that won $50,000. Another 11 school districts won $10,000 in prizes, Brokaw said.

Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; adominguez@heraldnet.com.

See for yourself

You can watch the YouTube video at http://tinyurl.com/SultanAward.

You can also read the essay at http://tinyurl.com/SultanEssay.

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