“It was twenty years ago today…”

No, it was not the day “Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play”… but it was still a significant day.

ahlogo1August 14, 1994. I remember shaking with excitement and uncertainty. My principal had come over to my house and was watching a simple graphic appear on my computer. It seemed to take forever to load, watching it fill out from top to bottom, line by line. Eventually, there it was. A school website. OUR school website. The ninth elementary school in the world with such a thing. He happily gave it his blessing – well, what could he say – his name was on the graphic!

The default background color on web browsers back then (if you even had a browser) was grey, so it looked a little different.

But we were there! And we still are. Of the earliest schools on the web, all appearing that summer, ours is the only one that still exists on the same piece of internet real estate: http://www.halcyon.com/arborhts/arborhts.html Here’s a listing of school websites from January of 1995. Oh my, it was a time!

ahmapchristmasThe story that followed was flat out amazing. I won’t go through much of it here and now, except to point you to a page that will lead you through the evolution of a pioneering school web site.

As I said earlier, the website still exists. I retired two years ago, but I believe in the importance of hanging onto some things. I am a saver. On the original Arbor Heights site, there are thousands of documents and pictures, telling the story of the school from 1994 to 2012. A few notables that will give you a sense of and feeling for the school, the families, staff, the kids – and that time:


Principal Carl Leatherman rides into an assembly on his motorcycle, 1997

There is plenty more, so please feel free to poke around and explore this little piece of internet history at arborheights.com. I intend to maintain it indefinitely.

arborhtswikiWe continued blazing school website trails with the establishment of a school wiki in 2006. In 2008, the wiki actually became the official home page of the school, recognized as such by the school district. I also maintained the  original website, so there was a period of 6 years where content was added regularly to the wiki and the website, the difference being, there were multiple authors to the wiki – staff and parents. It was a very exciting time. Challenging? Of course, but the end result of having to collaborate on a shared goal was a strong, united vision of how our school would appear on the web. The wiki still exists, and it has a fair amount of material archived on it as well.

Behind the scenes, from 2005 on, there was a constant pressure from the school district to have the Arbor Heights website look the same as all its other school websites, using their template. My sense has always been that schools, like individuals, want to be seen as unique, and NOT just like everybody else. But the big organization wants all its parts and pieces to look the same – it’s so much easier to manage that way…

In the fall of 2012, as soon as I retired, the school set up its website using the district template.

The current school website for Arbor Heights does not link to content on, or acknowledge the existence of, the school’s unique digital history. I hope that will change someday.  There are many inspiring stories and important pieces of that history to be shared, carried forward, and built upon. As a new Arbor Heights is being constructed, I hope people realize this is a time to tighten those connections and strengthen that foundation.

Happy 20th, Arbor Heights on the web!


About Mark Ahlness

I am a retired teacher, with dreams of still making a difference.
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