BILLINGS — It’s pretty quiet in the halls of Elder Grove, with the school year still a couple of weeks away. But one person you’re sure to find is technology director Carol Phillips, and that’s a good thing because the district would likely implode without her.
"People have no idea what value she has," said Elder Grove middle school principal Mike Rice. "She’s irreplaceable."
Elder Grove, a rural district between Billings and Laurel, doesn’t need to hold a popularity contest, because Phillips would run away with it.
"I have a monthly average of a couple hundred tickets," Phillips said. "I have almost 3,000 pieces of equipment I’m responsible for."
And it’s just her - a department of one.
"Carol Phillips is one of the most brilliant people I know," echoed Elder Grove K-5 principal Jesse Moore.
Phillips started as a volunteer at Elder Grove until after four years, the district realized what it had and created the district technology director position for her.
"She’s so efficient and she knows everything that goes on in the school," Rice said.
"It takes an incredible amount of stress away from not only Mr. Rice and I's administrators, but our staff and students," Moore added.
Rice and Moore were thrilled to nominate Phillips for the CoSN Withrow CTO of the Year award, and ecstatic when she won. So was she.
"I was in shock actually," Phillips admitted. "A lot of times I'm an island unto myself, and I appreciated the fact that they recognized how hard I was working. Everyone likes a little affirmation every now and then, right?"
At some point, Phillips will leave, so she’s started training her replacements. Phillips has a Tech Team - a group of middle schoolers who she’s teaching to do just about anything with technology.
"They’ll repair equipment. They'll go install something. They'll drop things off. They'll go get something, bring it back, repair it and return it," Phillips said. "They’re part of my team.”
It’s one of the most popular clubs on campus, and Phillips’ favorite part of the job. You can see her light up when their projects work, almost as much as her students do. They all want to make it a full-time class - Phillips is working on it.
For now, she’ll continue making a big difference in her small pond.
"Most of the school districts that have won (the CTO award) have been between 20,000-50,000 (students)," she said, "so to be Elder Grove, under 700, I am flattered to be part of that elite team."
Can’t think of a better word to describe her.