Pattye Benson

Community Matters

TESD Facilities Committee

TESD Facilities Committee Meeting – Presentation of $3 Million Plan to Upgrade IT Network

Ray Clarke attended the school district’s Facilities Committee meeting and graciously sent me notes. Although I have been married to a computer marketing guru for 30 years, I certainly don’t claim to have any understanding of the IT world. However, it is almost certain that when organizations make significant IT changes/upgrades — they are nearly out of date by the time they are installed. Because computer technology is constantly changing and advancing in today’s world, it can be difficult (and costly) to stay current. Technology experts — we could use your thoughts on the school district’s IT network upgrade plans.

Ray Clarke’s TESD Facilities Committee Meeting Notes . . .

Friday’s TESD Facilities Committee meeting was most notable for a presentation of a $3 million plan to upgrade the IT network. Happily, the Committee gave approval for only initial consultant planning work. Hopefully more of the community can be present for that report to learn what exactly is to be done, when, and what the practical user benefits will be.

The basic argument went as follows: “Text books and teaching materials are becoming more available electronically. Therefore we need a) higher speeds in the district network, and b) wireless network availability throughout the high school (already in place?), the middle schools and eventually the elementary schools.” The consultant waved his iPad, and stated it was useless without a network. But, is the converse also true?

Are we therefore setting the District up for an ongoing cascade of expenditure? The Committee was adamantly against the provision of mobile devices to students. Will they therefore be able to bring their own? Will our classrooms come to resemble the Ivy League class my wife and I sat in on, where 90% of the students were on Facebook, playing video games, IM’ing their buddies a few rows down, etc.?

The $3 million will expand the network speed from 1 to 10 gigabtyes per second. That’s nice. Is the network slow now? What’s the current capacity? What’s the correlation between capacity and response time perceived by the user? How much capacity does a “multi-media-rich, interactive web-based” class need? How many such classes could the current network support? What would happen if every class had one of those presentations at the same time? (And if they did, what would that say about our ability to have our students actually engage in stimulating discussion with the teacher and their peers, and actually learn to THINK?)

We’ll know the temperature and humidity in the switch closets. Also nice to know, but are we having sauna/steam room problems now? Further, it would be nice to have every phone in the school have immediate emergency power before the generators kick in, but what problems are created by the current situation?

I trust that there are answers to these and other questions. Dr Motel and the Committee were absolutely right in not giving carte blanche to this proposal and in asking for a real plan. Perhaps the bottom line question should be: How will our students benefit?

The 10 year capital plan – without solutions for district storage and maintenance facilities and with no provision for ongoing IT needs – shows the $15 million from last year’s bond being used up during 2014/15. The next tranche of bond funds at the same interest rate would be available just in time (I think (?)). Otherwise that $9 million designated for capital in the General Fund (if indeed it’s still there) would be needed.

Not much leeway, it seems to me.

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