Ulster BOCES Reveals the 'Man Behind the Curtain'

He’s been referred to as the “man behind the curtain” and has been known to instantaneously brighten the mood of employees. The man we speak of is not a magician, but rather an Ulster BOCES Electronic Communications Coordinator.

For the last 26 years, William Walton has been installing, monitoring, maintaining, and troubleshooting a variety of Internet, computer, telephone, television, and network and communication systems for Ulster BOCES and component school districts.

While many employees have heard of his name, most would not recognize his face, because he is able to keep things in good working order from a distance. Most school districts will courier over broken equipment right to Walton’s office, where it is fixed and returned. Walton also digitally fixes things from behind the scenes.

Walton is a work-with-your-hands type of guy. His workspace is surrounded by wires, routers, telephone jacks, and old dial-up systems. His bench is a graveyard of dead electronics equipment that are kept for their life-saving parts.

Walton, a Highland, New York resident, says his affinity for taking things apart and then putting them back together started when he was about eight years old. He recalls watching and admiring his grandfather, who was a farmer and owned a lot of farming equipment. He remembers his grandfather fixing a tractor out in the field, because when it comes to farming, time is of the essence.

It was also during that time period that Walton discovered his passion for antique machinery. Walton owns and has rebuilt several John Deere tractors and has refurbished a one-third scale Steam Traction Engine. He is currently rebuilding a 1908 five-horsepower Hit and Miss Economy Engine. “When you give an old engine like that a little TLC, the engine usually starts right up,” Walton said. “Today’s engines are a lot more complicated and expensive, and require special gadgets to tell you what’s wrong with them.”

Walton enjoys sharing his knowledge of vintage equipment during antique shows hosted by the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association, where he has been a member since 2001. “It’s my way of giving back,” said Walton.

He elaborated, “I love working on the old stuff. We live in such a disposable world, which is why products are so cheaply made and don’t last very long. It’s easier to just throw them out and buy new rather then fix them.”

Walton says he always knew what he wanted to do with his life. After graduating from New Paltz High School, Walton continued to pursue his interests at SUNY Ulster, where he obtained his Associates degree in both Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. He then transferred to SUNY Binghamton, where he earned his Bachelor of Science with an area of study in Engineering Technologies.

After a brief stint as an auto mechanic at Tantillo’s Garage in New Paltz, the owner Salvatore Tantillo, who was an Ulster BOCES Board of Education member at the time, suggested Walton apply for a position as a Computer AV Technician at Ulster BOCES. Walton applied and got the job.

Throughout his career, Walton has witnessed the evolution in the technological and communications industry. He recalls that when he first started working at Ulster BOCES, he was fixing 16-millimeter projectors, reel-to-reel tape players, VCRs, dial-up Internet access, and school public address systems. More recently he has had to learn about Firewalls, VoIP systems, interactive display boards, Wi-Fi, smart devices, iCloud, Google Drive, snaps, chats, and double taps.

Understanding the latest in technology came in handy when Walton was involved in a multi- contractor, agency, and employee project where he was tasked with helping to coordinate and design Internet access for every school district in Ulster County. It was one of the most challenging projects he was asked to do.

Walton said, “When I feel the most proud is when I save Ulster BOCES or our school districts money by using my skill sets in repairing antiquated equipment.”

He currently is working on helping Ellenville High School fix its media center’s Crown amplifier, which coincidentally he helped install 15 years earlier. Ellenville High School Art teacher and TV and Radio Coordinator Tim Lukaszewski said Walton’s talents are indispensable. “School districts can’t afford to change their technology as often as technology changes, so it’s guys like Walton who are able to keep older equipment running and students learning,” he explained.

Walton says he looks forward to seeing what has yet to come, technologically speaking. “Maybe space is not the final frontier, maybe it’s technology,” he joked.

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