You could say that Jerry Jones owes his life-long fascination with technology to a youngster named Charlotte whom he met while growing up in Sparks, Nevada.
Charlotte was not a girlfriend, or even a girl. She was a piglet that 11-year-old Jerry bought, named, raised on a friend’s ranch, and eventually showed at the Nevada State Fair in nearby Carson City. After the fair, he sold Charlotte and used the cash to buy his first computer — a Commodore 64.
It was love at first byte.
“My parents didn’t know what any of that [computer] stuff was,” Jerry says. “They thought I just wanted to make my own video games, which was mostly true. Fortunately it turned into a career for me.”
Today, he is the Executive Director of Technology Services for the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE), and also serves as a Board Member of the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC). He has worked at SCOE since 1989, when he started there as a student assistant while attending night classes at American River College.
He continued his schooling at Sacramento State, where he graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Computer Science. He later earned a Network and Systems Administration Certificate from the UC Davis Extension campus, in addition to many other technology-related certifications he’s earned throughout his career.
Jerry was not always such a diligent student. He remembers all too well his days goofing around with a buddy — and getting caught — in Mrs. Yamaguchi’s 4th grade class at Lloyd Diedrichsen Elementary School back in Sparks.
“I remember being very upset and resentful that she wrote a note home to my parents to let them know I’d gotten into trouble in class,” he recalls. But Mrs. Yamaguchi made a point to reach out to Jerry and his friend and began involving the two with various classroom projects. “She was praising us when we did a good job while continuing to have high expectations for us… I learned from her that you can still have fun while working hard and being respectful of others, and that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. It may be an old cliche, but it’s true.”
That lesson has certainly carried into Jerry’s career, as one of his primary responsibilities with SCOE is to support and maintain the ultra-fast fiber network that connects all of the schools in Sacramento county to the Internet. BESTNet, short for the Broadband Education Services Technology Network, allows Sacramento’s 13 school districts and 245,000 students to access online curriculum, electronic tools, and digital video content at 100 Gigabits per second. That’s faster than most Fortune 500 companies!
Indeed, the entire BESTNet project, launched in 2003, has been spearheaded by SECC, the Sacramento Metropolitan Cable Television Commission, Comcast and SCOE. “SECC was instrumental,” Jerry says, “in working with the cable companies to acquire the ‘dark fiber’ for our school districts and, later, individual schools. Working together, we were able to build a very robust and lightening-fast network in Sacramento County that is one of the fastest education networks in California.”
BESTNet enables the school districts to provide online curriculum, adaptive computerized testing, virtual field trips and many other electronic tools and resources to students, teachers and other educational support staff. In addition, the network supports the SECC-sponsored student digital video production studios throughout the county, allowing students to copy video files back and forth in seconds, in addition to viewing the student-produced video content from any classroom.
Looking toward the future, Jerry says the partnership between SECC and the educational community in Sacramento County will continue to be important as they work together to renew the agreement with area cable companies for the continued operation of BESTNet. The original 20-year agreement is scheduled to expire in 2023, and the schools are hoping to extend the agreement to 2033.
“It’s a critical resource,” he says. “We rely extensively on the Internet and local electronic services for classroom instruction and support. We need to do everything we can to make sure students and teachers have access to this amazing network for years to come.”
Want to contact Jerry? Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org