Photo by Jon Anderson.
Brian Fancher, the 2015 Hoover City Schools Employee of the Year, sits at his desk in the information technology department at the former Berry High School campus on Columbiana Road, where he monitors the school system’s computer networks.
On a typical day, the Hoover school system has 18,000 to 20,000 electronic devices tapping into its computer network, and somebody has to make sure the system doesn’t choke under the load.
That somebody is Brian Fancher, the school district’s computer network administrator.
Fancher, a 30-year-old Hoover resident, is sort of “the man behind the curtain,” maintaining, monitoring and upgrading the school system’s technical network equipment and servers.
School officials say he’s a valuable asset and recently chose him as the district’s 2015 Employee of the Year.
“He’s the busiest, nonstop person I know,” said Bryan Phillips, the chief technology officer for Hoover City Schools and Fancher’s supervisor. “With him, it’s 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. When everybody else is gone, he’s there working. He makes everything easy.”
Fancher is an extremely dedicated employee, Phillips said. When the school district’s phone system went down recently, Fancher was on vacation but took three days out of his time off to get the problem resolved, Phillips said.
Fancher’s workday typically starts about 6:30 or 7 a.m., before most school employees arrive. He gets there early to make sure all systems are working properly, he said.
The school district has about 11,000 Chromebooks, 2,000 iPads and 3,500 other electronic devices that are used by students and faculty, Fancher said. And people bring more laptops, tablets and phones with them to school. High school students on average have 2.5 electronic devices that tap into the school’s networks, he said.
While the typical day accommodates 18,000 to 20,000 devices, peak traffic can rise to 28,000 devices on some days, Fancher said.
That’s a whole lot different than years ago, when students weren’t allowed to even have phones at school, he said.
“It’s a fun challenge,” Fancher said. “There’s always something going on, and with us pushing the education technology envelope, there’s always something to keep me on my toes.”
Fancher said he’s always been interested in computers. When he was in middle school, he saved money from a summer job to buy his first computer, he said. Then in high school, he started building computers.
He graduated from Hoover High in 2003 and went on to get a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He worked in information technology for UPS while he was in college and a little bit after he graduated and then spent a couple of years working for Byte Size Computers in Homewood.
Fancher began working with Hoover City Schools in 2008. He started as a computer technician at Deer Valley, South Shades Crest and Trace Crossings elementary schools for three years and then spent a year at Bumpus Middle School and the Hoover High Freshman Center and another year at the main Hoover High campus.
He was promoted to senior technician to oversee the beginning of the school system’s Engaged Learning Initiative, which involved issuing computers to every student in grades 3-12, and stayed in that job about nine months. He was promoted again to network administrator and has held that role for about 2 ½ years, he said.
He loves his career field, which he said is never boring because technology is always changing, and he likes interacting with teachers and students.
“After being in education, I don’t think I would want to go back to the corporate world,” he said.
In his spare time, Fancher enjoys caving, rappelling, skydiving and “Tough Mudder” competitions. Those hobbies don’t fit the stereotype for computer guys, but most of the guys on the technology team don’t fit that mold, he said.
“I like being outdoors,” Fancher said. “It’s fun to kind of physically challenge yourself to get through some of those things. You sit behind a computer so long, you kind of want to get outside.”
Plus, in the caves, there is no wireless availability, he said. “You’re completely disconnected.”
Other finalists for the 2015 Hoover City Schools Employee of the Year were:
- Brandi Marcrum, a physical education aide at Deer Valley Elementary School
- Margaret Pruitt, a custodian at Gwin Elementary School
- Lisa Yancey, the district’s student services office manager