“One of the most important statistics that I saw when I began working here was that only 60% of our students who went on to college actually graduated with a diploma,” explains Adams. “They earned their high school diploma, but they weren’t being prepared for college. We want to prepare them for the three C’s so they can have a better life. But in order to do so, we had to transform the system in a bold way.”

In November 2012, Adams and his team brought the community together to approve Measure X, a technology bond that funds a pre-K-12 one-to-one iPad program. “We did a huge campaign to present this technology bond before the community,” explains Adams. “We showed them the benefits of using these devices, and we said we can do this, but you’ve got to vote for it, and you’ve got to be willing to tax yourself to do it. You can’t wait for the state or federal governments to provide this opportunity to our students. You’ve got to take your future into your own hands.”

The measure passed with sixty-percent of the vote and the one-to-one initiative rolled out with built-in buy-in from the community, the unions, the students and the local politicians.

The main challenge to the initiative’s success has been connectivity, both in regards to the district’s broadband network and in regards to getting affordable internet plans for the students’ homes. To that end, Adams was recently recognized for his efforts and invited to Washington for an event, called ConnectED to the Future, centered around improving student access to high speed internet, where he met with both Arne Duncan and the President as part of a select cotillion of superintendents from around the country. During the President’s speech, Coachella Valley was even highlighted for its commitment to providing students with digital access.

“We’ve promised the students and the parents 24/7 learning in a 21st Century teaching and learning environment,” explains Adams. “24/7 access is a critical issue, because if you don’t eliminate that digital divide, that gap between the students whose families can afford a connection and those whose families can’t will continue to grow.”

At the start of the initiative, in 2012, he district shared a 3GB broadband connection with two other districts in the county, which connects through a third party ISP to the node, meaning their network was quickly overloaded with 18,000 student devices, 800 teacher devices, computer labs and administrative systems connected to the network, which spans 23 school sites. The network has since been upgraded to provide 3GB—still not anywhere near the recommended 1GB per 1,000 devices.

(Next page: Turning school buses into wi-fi hotspots)