Given the financial changes that are happening in state finances and school funding during this recession, how is your district preparing to deliver services with less money and less staff? What types of alternatives are being considered and what's being dropped or downgraded.
Director of Technology Services
Tyler Independent School District
With the State of Texas budget shortfall estimates ranging up to $27 billion, our legislature is preparing a budget that will trim about $9bBillion from school budgets. In order to prepare for what the future will hold we are looking at pretty much everything that isn't mandated by law. Each and every area in our district is being examined to determine how we can operate more efficiently from class scheduling options to transportation, maintenance and extracurricular programs.
Personnel consultants have been hired to help up prepare for a possible reduction in force, maintenance contracts have been eliminated, low use software subscriptions will be discontinued and new computing models like thin client are being evaluated as a way to provide the technology our students and staff need at a lower cost. Additionally, we are bidding a number of services such as local and long distance phone service and our leased fiber optic network in an effort to reduce costs. Our district has also upgraded some of our large volume copying machines and when we did that we were able to reduce our lease cost at the same time.
Executive Director for Technology
Lakota School District
West Chester, Ohio
Here in Ohio we anticipate a 15 percent cut in state revenue on top of the 10 percent drop between 2010 and 2011. This has certainly forced us to look at where we can increase efficiency, replace people with automated systems, become a “greener” district and reuse hardware in creative ways.
Given that we’ve had two years to work on the process here are things we’re already doing:
- Automatic power down and restart of PC from 8:00 pm to 5:00 am. Savings of $75,000 per year.
- Reducing the printer fleet by 20 percent and purging the fleet of old printers. Savings of $50,000 in the initial year and $25,000 annually.
- Virtualized everything we can both on the desktop and in the Data Center.
- Created a building by building list of hardware by processor age to develop a priority map for moving machines to the most important instructional locations in the building as machines die.
- Freeze all purchases and limited purchases to the replacement of a primary system if we cannot use a system from the priority list.
- Identified laptop carts with the lowest usage rates so we can take these out of service using the laptops as replacement machines on priority carts.
- Use old PCs as thin clients to provide Internet and MS Office access in Media Centers or open labs.
- Invest time in our management software systems to improve data quality and redesign processes (like emailing purchase orders rather than printing and mailing through the postal service).
I expect the processes to remain in place once the state clears the financial difficulties in 2014 to 2016. Probably the largest project is encouraging a move of our district’s curriculum entirely to Web-based content. If this can be accomplished it will allow the vast majority of our PCs to be converted to thin clients saving approximately 70 percent per device. At 6,000 machines this would be a nice chunk of change.
Meanwhile, We have frozen the refresh program for two years at a savings of $1,200,000. The downside is that we now have machines that are 6 to 7 years old in six buildings. On the plus side, it is forcing buildings to develop better strategies for computer use since they will likely receive 40 percent less funding for a refresh.
As a result of all these elderly machines, the repair budget has grown by 60 percent this year and will likely jump again next year. Not too much we can do about this one short of just not replacing the machines.
We renegotiated many contracts saving $5,000 to $25,000 annually and dropped a student storage vendor in favor of free web services. We are eliminating the Edline student/parent portal in favor of an application that comes with our SIS. It’s not as deep as Edline, but community presentations are OK with it.
All professional development and IT related conferences have been cancelled. We are implementing an ATM-like system for tardy students or students on early release. This saves several hours of staff time each day.
We’re moving in the direction of BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology). WiFi is available in all buildings and with a small build out in the secondary building we could add capacity for another 200 to 300 users. With what we have in place today we typically see 275to 300 non Lakota machines attached.
Unlike most other states, Ohio’s property taxes for schools do not increase at the rate of inflation. We have failed to pass two levies in the past nine months and will run another in November. If this one does not pass, I expect to lose several staff members and certainly an additional 15 percent of our budget.
Education is at a cross roads in most states because schools have grown into places that not only educate kids in the core areas, but engage them in hundreds of classes and activities to foster creativity and leadership. Everyone wants to point at K-through-12 schools, telling us we’re not doing enough to develop the whole student, but how are we going to do that when we’re being asked to cut budgets by 25 percent? It just doesn’t make sense!
Eastland-Fairfield Career and Technical Schools
Dr. Mark Weedy
During my 32 years in education, I have seen many financial cycles in school districts. Today’s financial challenges faced by school districts, while pretty tough, are really not that different from some of the others I have witnessed. I firmly believe when it comes to the area of technology, school districts must place a priority on staying current.
Once a district falls behind, it is difficult to catch up. Students quickly realize when technology is not current in their school, and since multiple educational choices are available to students and parents today, they may opt for another school if opportunities are not available. In many ways technology can reduce expenditures school districts typically have including the replacement of textbooks, media center/library purchases, and administrative duties such as attendance and other mandated record-keeping chores.
School district personnel must look at all segments of the budget to determine where and how the use of technology can save time and money. Unfortunately this is typically done when finances are tight, but I maintain that this should be the norm. It is incumbent on school district personnel to use taxpayer dollars wisely at all times, not just when they find themselves in hard times. The use of technology is one way to accomplish this goal.