Thursday, April 17, 2008

My First Hate Mail!

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later: a resident would send an anonymous note telling me of his/her displeasure with something the Board had done. This one is particulary sad, however, as the author's level of understanding is not able to be lifted since I don't know who to address.

Here's what I received: someone had printed an April 11, 2008 editorial from the online version of Business Week. The gist of it was basically an "Apple vs. Microsoft" thing. It was an op-ed piece - not a news article. The anonymous sender included a 'personal note' on the second page that reads, "Maybe you and your administrators should have done your homework before you spent $500,000 of the taxpayers money ! ! !"


Let's get the facts straight, shall we?

First of all, we did our homework - a LOT of homework. The process actually began last year, and included a December 2007 visit to VARtek's corporate office in Dayton, along with an on-site to Fairmont Kettering High School by a select group of administrators, teaching staff, and support staff. VARtek provides educational technology solutions exclusively to the K-12 education market, and they use both Apple and Microsoft systems. They have been in business for over 19 years, and have worked with over 200 public and parochial schools in Ohio and Indiana. Those visits last December, along with some additional phone calls etc. to clients is what initiated our January request and contract with them to provide a technology integration analysis for our district, including a report on what improvements would be recommended with a long-term managed solution.

Then we went to our staff. Ask any teacher or administrator from any of our 4 schools about the detailed survey they were asked to complete (on which a huge majority obliged). The vast majority of those who took the survey were more than a little disappointed with our current situation. They were angry! They were frustrated! They were also excited to think that the Board was actually going to DO something about a failing system they were forced to wrestle with daily.

Our network is down several times each week, and when it IS operational it is terribly slow. The data cabling infrastructure is at least 10 years old in all of our buildings except the high school. We have no automated back-up and recovery system. (Are you corporate people turning pale yet, from reading this?) Virtually ALL of the workstations/laptops at the high school and Park Elementary are beyond their useful life. Getting our older units to work with newer units is also causing many problems. Common sense would dictate that older units are eliminated - but we have not done so.

We are running multiple operating systems and many different application software versions throughout the district. Our teaching staff has had little training - and they are asking for more. Our expenditures have been slightly higher than our peer schools - yet we have aged equipment, limited curricular software, inappropriate support skill sets, and limited training which results in a less than desirable technology environment to positively impact our students.

So, Yes, Virginia - we did our homework.

Next, the cost issue. One interesting discovery for me as a newbie on the Board was that the district had been spending an average of $323,000 per year on our technology (around $231 per student annually) - and it wasn't working! The system was abysmally slow - when it worked at all - and people in every building had difficulty getting things to print. There is no defined budget, inconsistent home access, limited technology labor skills, limited network engineering and maintenance skills, and no plan for the future. We are limping along, with severely limited functionality, and paying $323K annually for the pleasure. NOT a good thing.

With the proposed technology solution from VARtek, we will spend between $314K to $392K annually and with that we have performance guarantees. We will be spending essentially the same amount, but getting guaranteed results.

Now - that takes care of the 'homework' issue and the 'spending of taxpayer money' issue.

As to that editorial, it's too bad the sender didn't take the time to also read the 30+ pages of comments to get a clear picture of the issues at hand. By itself, the article might be reason to purchase Apple stock for speculative purposes, if you believe Business Week knows what its talking about in an opinion piece, and if you are willing to put your money where their mouth is. But there was nothing written that should have upset John Q. Public about our contract with VARtek, even if s/he had gotten the facts straight about the transaction itself.

1 comment:

C Irmen said...


I have received a couple more comments on this post that ask valid questions and state good points, but as the authors chose to remain anonymous, their posts will not be published.

If you want your comment to be published online, you are required to sign your name. We are all adults here and should be able to stand by our opinions, whatever they may be. Doing so requires that you include your first and last name to take ownership of your comment.

I will be glad to publish from anyone with whatever they have to say (excluding profanity), but only if the comment is signed.