by Moira Cullings
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It started with the Wi-Fi.
A few years ago, Dan Norman, a parishioner at St. John Paul II Parish in Olathe, was searching for technology-related volunteer work.
He asked Father Andrew Strobl, pastor of Holy Name Parish in Kansas City, Kansas, at the time, if he knew of any opportunities.
Father Strobl told Norman that Holy Name of Jesus School needed help with some Wi-Fi problems.
“Wi-Fi problems was an understatement,” said Norman with a laugh.
When Norman got to the school, he realized its technology issues were much more daunting.
But he was eager to help.
Since that initial visit in 2016, Norman has rewired the entire school, replaced old computers with Chromebooks and helped with several small projects.
“Dan has been a true godsend for our school,” said Holy Name principal Randy Smith. “His knowledge and wanting what is best for our children at Holy Name does not go unnoticed.”
Shortly after starting his volunteer work at Holy Name, Norman joined the school’s business team — a community of volunteers from around the archdiocese who use their talents to serve the school.
Holy Name’s business team is a product of the archdiocesan School Advancement Program (SAP), which was developed to assist schools — especially those in rural and urban areas — with enrollment and sustainability.
The archdiocese currently has nine SAP schools, and business teams like the one at Holy Name have helped them not only survive but thrive thanks to volunteers like Norman.
From 2016-17, Norman worked on stabilizing the school’s technology and getting as much of it working as possible.
In the summer of 2018, he and a small group of volunteers realized they were “just putting Band-Aids on stuff,” said Norman.
“If we’re actually going to get over this hump,” he thought, “we’re going to have to pull out all the old infrastructure so that we can get Wi-Fi across campus and get set up for the next 20 years.”
From 2018-19, Norman, with help from then-principal Amanda Vega, pastor Father Anthony Ouelette, a couple teachers and some of St. John Paul II’s Knights of Columbus, got to work.
“In that time, we tore out the old network cable, phone cables — stuff from all the different decades,” said Norman.
Eventually, the group received funding to buy cabling and new network equipment.
“With that, and with some of my time and some other volunteers’ time, we were able to get the entire building rewired over that year,” said Norman, “and get all the systems back up to snuff.”
Norman also helped the school secure a grant to purchase 60 Chromebooks, and this year, Holy Name received even more Chromebooks from the government as part of a COVID-19 relief bill.
Norman was then able to add ChromeOS onto the school’s existing computers so those could be recovered, too.
Smith said Norman’s work is the finest he’s seen.
“I have worked at several schools in my career,” he said, “including an award-winning public school district that has spent millions of dollars on their infrastructure and technology projects.
“With Dan’s help, his leadership and his volunteering of time, the technology infrastructure we have at Holy Name is the best I have ever used.”
Norman’s efforts to keep the school’s technology running smoothly don’t go unnoticed by Holy Name students.
“We are grateful for Mr. Norman’s help,” said eighth grader Felicity Pecina. “We can complete our assignments by using our updated information on the great working internet.”
Eighth grader Ailea Hernandez agreed.
“We have some great working Chromebooks that never break down, which allow us to use them to learn,” she said. “But [it] also helps our teachers out with grading and giving us online assignments.
“We are very thankful that Mr. Norman helps out.”
Smith said new school staff are often surprised when they discover Norman is a volunteer and not an employee of the school.
“If we have any tech issues,” said Smith, “Dan usually handles it behind the scenes or walks us through any problems and solves them quickly.
“Schools would love to have someone with Dan’s talents.”
Norman, a software engineer at Garmin, said his career is “tangentially related” to the volunteer work he’s done and that he enjoys putting his IT skills to the test.
“This is something that not necessarily a lot of people have the knowledge or skill set [for],” he said, “and I can do it.”
Serving on the Holy Name business team is an added bonus.
“It’s really exciting to see people come together for this,” he said, “and the abilities they have now to really take care of some of the needs the school has. It’s amazing.”
Smith echoed his admiration for the team.
“Each business team member has their own God-given talents they give to our team,” he said, “but [the care] they have for our school is heart-filling.
“Holy Name would have a hard time staying open without our business team and their leadership. Our business team members have a common theme: a love for Holy Name.”
Get rid of old tech and help a school
Holy Name of Jesus School in Kansas City, Kansas, partnered with Adams Cable Equipment in Lenexa on Sept. 6 for an e-waste recycling drive.
The school, which recently replaced its old computers with new Chromebooks, had much to recycle and extended the opportunity to all parishes in the archdiocese.
The drive collected 7,016 pounds of electronics. Those who missed it can still drop off scrap electronics Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Lenexa facility.
The event was free, and since recycling larger technology items typically comes at a cost, organizers asked for goodwill donations for Holy Name.
The school raised some $2,000 to go toward a new phone, intercom and security system at the school.
Those interested in donating to the same fund can go online to: holynamecatholicschool.org/shop-1.