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On Josh Taylor’s desk in the county’s IT building, about a dozen four-inch-high bobble headed super heroes stand guard over his workspace.

“I’m all about anything nerd culture,” Taylor admitted with an easygoing smile. “I hate to perpetuate the stereotype, as a tech guy but yeah, I’m a big dork. I love comic books. I’ve loved those since I was a little kid.”

Back when Taylor was a little kid, he was reading those comic books at his home is Allisonia. His father, Gary Taylor, and mother, Sandra Smythers Taylor, grew up there too, as did his uncles and grandad, Daris Smythers.

“It was a farm community,” said Taylor. “It was a day trip to come to town to get groceries. We came twice a month. We made the list and we pretty much stayed in Allisonia.”

Josh Taylor attended the last class ever held at Hiwassee Elementary School before attending Dublin Elementary then Dublin Middle Schools. He graduated in 2000 from Pulaski County High School and soon began attending New River Community College, where he studied computer engineering and network specialization.

He also began working part time at the Hoover Color plant, where his father had worked for many years.

“In the finish department where I worked. It was the equivalent of making a 10,000-pound cake,” Taylor recounted. “We would pull all this material and put it in this gigantic blender and just mix it up.”

Charles Hoover Jr., who ran the plant, knew young Taylor was studying technology at NRCC and asked if he would like to run the plant’s network of 20 computers. Taylor eagerly took the opportunity and set about making a database for all the equipment in the facility, even while continuing to work as a manual laborer.

“I would do IT work but I would also get dirty and wear a hard hat too, said Taylor. “This was 2003. So, I got my feet wet there.”

The next year, the Pulaski County school system was looking to hire another part time computer technician and based on his experience at Hoover, Taylor was hired. Apparently he did good work because the next year he was hired on full time.

“A lot of what I did was just setting out new computers, receiving new computers or going out to the schools,” Taylor recounted.

A year and a half later, Taylor was again promoted and was tasked with keeping the school system’s computer network running. He was 23 at the time.

“It was pretty exciting as a young guy,” said Taylor. “We worked long hours and I was tasked with upgrading servers and replacing switches and pulling cable … a lot of stuff that was really jazzed on doing,” said Taylor.

In this position Taylor installed network equipment and made sure that Pulaski County Public Schools had a viable back up system in case data was somehow lost.

In 2009, the school system’s network administrator retired and once again, Josh Taylor matriculated upward through the IT department by securing that position. As the PCPS network administrator, Taylor was in charge of making recommendations as to which equipment to buy, as well as monitoring that equipment and making sure everything ran smoothly.

“We provided our own email, so we were in charge of filtering out spam messages and making sure good messages got in bad messages stayed out,” said Taylor. “The same with internet. We filtered our internet for our kids making sure that some of our kids weren’t trying to circumvent our filters and they couldn’t get to stuff they shouldn’t be able to get to.”

At that time, the high schools and both middle schools had computer labs that housed several computers that Josh watched over and again, the young man from Allisonia seemed to excel in his duties.

In 2015, in between working well over 40 hours a week, Taylor earned his bachelor’s degree in Network Administration through an online course offered by Western Governor’s University.

In the spring of 2018, Tim Barnes, Pulaski County Public Schools Director of Technology retired and Taylor was made the interim director, while the school board looked for a permanent replacement.

In the meantime, at the direction of the school board, school superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers gave Taylor two directives.

“He wanted us to move to a Google Cloud Platform and he wanted to start the E Backpack program,” said Taylor.

In his first months as interim Director of Technology, Taylor migrated PCPS staff and students to a Google Cloud platform for email, which made available other educational Google products.

He then took steps to take advantage of the E Backpack program, which is a statewide initiative designed to give students their own computers to do their school work. As such, the state pays 80% of the costs with the county providing 20% matching funds, but if the county didn’t take advantage of this program within a certain time frame, the funds would be lost.

It was decided that the county would purchase laptop computers, known as Chromebooks, at a cost of $384 each.

“For our pilot program, we rolled out Chromebooks for freshman only and saw some successes in that program,” Taylor recounted. “That made us feel comfortable enough so that going into this year, we rolled out Chromebooks to not only the 10th graders that had them as ninth graders but the upcoming ninth graders and the rising juniors. So the teachers can basically create a digital classroom and assign work to their students that they can do digitally and not have to do paper pencil if they don’t want to.”

Starting in the 2020 school year, the Pulaski County school system will provide Chromebooks to all PCHS students, as well as all sixth through eighth grade students attending the new middle school. This program is known as the “one to one initiative” referring to the idea that each student would have their own personal computer.

“That is basically their digital textbook they’re in charge of maintaining it,” said Taylor.

As always, there were concerns about students using their computers to find inappropriate materials on the internet.

“They can use it as they see fit as an education tool, but all the while we log the internet and filter the internet on network and at home as well,” said Taylor. “We have a cloud service that does that, so they don’t have free rein access but we’re a little looser as far as their access at home and some of the games that they can play that are appropriate.”

Likely due to the success of implementing these initiatives, Josh Taylor was chosen to be the Director of Technology for Pulaski County Public Schools in October 2018.

Today Josh lives with his three dachshunds in his house in the town of Pulaski (near a grocery store).

“It’s been awesome living in town,” Taylor enthused. “I love living in Pulaski. It provides the best mix of small town living with access to other amenities.”

An avid runner, Josh will sometimes run to work.

“A lot of people know me as that crazy guy who runs downtown, so I run from my house down to this office and back so it’s a nice little five-mile loop,” said Josh.

Taylor is also musically inclined.

“I’ve been playing drums for over 20 years and actively played in bands for the last 15 years,” said Taylor. “I’ve been playing with Eric Gress. We started out playing punk rock music in my 20s. About eight years ago I showed up at his house and he said, “Hey, we’re going to play country music.’ I said ‘Cool, let’s do it!’ And we’ve been playing country music ever since. We play just about every weekend. We travel from West Virginia to Georgia.”

Taylor plans to play with the Eric Gress band at Sharky’s in Radford for new year’s eve, just as they’ve done for the last three years.

“He’s one of my best friends and it’s great to be able to make art with people that you love,” said Taylor.

Gress also makes an annual trek to Baltimore for Comicon (Comic Convention) with his girlfriend Kayla Cox. Though, Taylor doesn’t dress in costume, Kayla, who does costume, hair and makeup most certainly does. This year, Cox’s costume was a combination of Harley Quinn and a mermaid.

“We’re both just nerds,” said Taylor. “It’s just a passion for music and art and technology.”

Family also rates high with Taylor. His sister, Kayla Mooney, just had her first baby and Taylor and his mother make a point of visiting often.

“So, it’s really kind of a perfect little life here in Pulaski,” said Taylor. “I guess you can look at that two ways … it’s like ‘Well you never left,’ … but I had everything here I needed. And for me this place is perfect.”

As such, Josh Taylor sometimes finds it hard to believe that people pay him for doing what he loves to do.

“I love a challenge,” said Taylor. “I love a project. I don’t like for things to go down but when there’s a complicated problem, I love to be involved in it. And that’s really what I think I like most about the job is the staff that we have here, the students that we have here. I love to be the one who solves a problem and helps people. When someone says, ‘Oh my computer doesn’t work,’ I can click a couple buttons and help them out, and to them it’s… ‘You changed my day.’ To me It’s like, ‘Oh, it’s what I’m good at.’ Just being able to help people really is the best part.”

More about EditorWritten by: Editor on November 18, 2019.Comments