I've made a few incremental improvements, each time temporarily screwing things up royally.
I cannibalized my weakest machine and moved a second 1 gig hard drive onto my server & moved /home onto it. I imagine that will speed things up a little. I also put in 16 more megs of RAM, bringing me up to a stunning 48 and replaced an unreliable floppy drive.
I ported my icewm menu over to blackbox menu format and installed it on all the machines. I tried to make the NFS clients mount the /usr/X11R6/share/Blackbox directory, but somehow screwed it up. I'm not sure why, as they are already mounting several NFS directories with fstab. Regardless, icewm is perfect for getting the kids started, but it is a little lame stylistically. Ultimately I don't want to just ape Windows 95. Blackbox clearly says something different is going on here.
My old WRCT buddy/roommate/label boss Yary Hluchan is generously donating a 8 port switch to the cause. That'll help me stop using my server as a workstation and get connected to the rest of the school network. I might add that using the server as a workstation has gone just fine, my best example of the stability of Linux. On the other hand, one of my workstations froze about 5 times today, so I need to sort that out.