Editor’s note: The "Innovation Exchange," a regular feature in Local Tech Wire, is written by Noah Garrett, former director of communications for the North Carolina Technology Association, a creative spirit, from writing music to news stories, and owner and operator NGC Communications. The focus of the Innovation Exchange is just that – creating a web community through which people can exchange ideas and foster creativity.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – The changing needs of students today demand that we offer technologically-advanced options for today’s classrooms. Next month’s celebrated completion of the is a major step in ensuring that every teacher and student has broadband access, no matter where they live, no matter how large or small the school district.

, on behalf of the North Carolina Board of Education, announced this week that all 115 K-12 Local Education Agencies (school districts) throughout the state are now connected to the (NCREN).

The RTP-based non-profit is planning a big celebration honoring the completion of the N.C. School Connectivity Initiative on Thursday, May 7, at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction in Raleigh. The celebration will focus on recognizing the leadership of Gov. Bev Perdue, the North Carolina General Assembly and the University of North Carolina system, who were the driving forces behind funding for the School Connectivity Initiative.

“The N.C. School Connectivity Initiative provides local school districts with the connectivity and access to technologies that help prepare today’s students for the careers of tomorrow,” said Joe Freddoso, president and CEO of MCNC. “The fast implementation of the School Connectivity Initiative was achieved through collaboration among the Department of Public Instruction, eNC, North Carolina Office of Information Technology Services, the Friday Institute , and private sector service providers including AT&T, TimeWarner Cable, Embarq, Verizon, DukeNet and MCNC.”

NCREN is a statewide IP data and video network that provides high-speed connectivity, distance learning capability and is one of the nation’s first statewide education and research networks. It provides broadband communications technology services and support to K-12 school districts, higher education campuses and academic research institutions across North Carolina.

MCNC offers the NCREN network, technology tools and services to guarantee equal access to 21st century learning by providing a future-proof technology network that is the foundation for change and innovation in our educational systems. It creates possibility and an equitable educational experience throughout the state.

MCNC continues to increase the scope and reach of NCREN.

The NCREN user-community now includes:

• 17 Institutions of the UNC System and General Administration
• 24 of the 36 North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities
• All 115 Public K-12 School Districts in the state
• 7 of the largest North Carolina Community Colleges
• Research Institutions and Foundations

The N.C. School Connectivity Initiative is the result of North Carolina leaders’ desire for 21st century classrooms and development of a North Carolina workforce prepared to succeed in a global economy. It seeks to expand the number of schools with broadband Internet access; further develop communication networks for rural and underperforming schools; and develop a scalable model to maintain and enhance network services to all schools in North Carolina.

This initiative entered the implementation phase in spring 2008 and initially was established through N.C. Senate Bill 1741 by the General Assembly. Now, with all K-12 schools in the state connected to NCREN, results include increased collaboration between all K-20 education entities in the state.

Dr. Bill Harrison, chairman and chief executive officer of the North Carolina Board of Education, will be the keynote speaker at the event. He was appointed to the board by Gov. Perdue to fill an At-Large position. A native of Pennsylvania, Dr. Harrison has served N.C. public schools in a variety of ways throughout his career.

The public is welcome to attend.