When Mark Klingler started working at Forsyth Central High School in 1989, technology education was a new subject.
So new, in fact, that his class – industrial arts and technology education – was the first such program in the state.
In March, after 28 years with Forsyth County Schools, the director of technology services will retire.
“I’m looking for more time to pursue my hobbies and other interests, be able to travel with my wife who retired a few years ago, as well as be available to help my aging parents and in-laws,” he said.
Klinger is largely responsible for past and current technology initiatives in FCS and has been the leader of technological advancement in the school system.
“Mark has planned and supported the network and equipment provided to our students and staff,” said Jennifer Caracciolo, a spokeswoman for the school system. “He originated the idea of technology distribution into classrooms and into labs – we actually built the first laptop carts that transported them to classrooms – followed by wireless notebooks, interactive whiteboards, which in the early 2000s was the largest installation in the world, and projectors, to also BYOT [Bring Your Own Technology].
“Our community-led strategic plan provided the district the vision for technology, and Mark was the person that planned it out and ensured that it worked, while also evolving over the years.”
BYOT is a county initiative aimed at providing internet access and hotspot devices to students whose families cannot afford it at home.
“As we were rolling out our first district-wide Wi-Fi infrastructure, Mark brought forward the idea of unbanning students bringing devices, such as cell phones and hand-held gaming devices, to school,” Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Jeff Bearden said. “BYOT is part of how we do learning today, but back then it was not as readily accepted. He worked with our teaching and learning department to bring in principals to start discussions, and from there we started pilots at a handful of schools.”
The pilots succeeded, and BYOT took off across county schools and sparked interest nationwide, Bearden said.
“We have had countless visitors from across our country visit our district to learn our BYOT story, including myself when I was superintendent of another Georgia school district,” he said. “Almost 10 years after Mark had this vision, BYOT is now a norm in schools across the nation.”
Klingler said BYOT – and the county’s schools – would likely not be where they are today had it not been for the work of the FCS strategic planning committee.
“Being part of original strategic planning committee and the technology task force allowed us to create the blueprint for the initial district-wide technology initiative and rollout,” Klingler said. “The distributive environment that we implemented was in contrast to the dedicated computer lab approach that was becoming popular at the time.
“A supportive and engaged community and an always forward-thinking [Board of Education] allowed the talented and hardworking folks in the technology department to transform the learning environment over the years. I’ve been fortunate to have such great people to work with and make things happen all these years.”
The county currently has 36 brick-and-mortar schools, all of which rely on Klingler for their technological advancements.
“[BYOT] is just one example of the large impact Mark has and will continue to have on Forsyth County Schools,” Bearden said. “We are extremely grateful for his service and dedication to our students and wish him the best in his retirement.”