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L-S School Committee Discusses Possible $500K Technology Upgrade

Nancy Errico, the management information systems manager, says a number of classes are almost solely relying on technology.

Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School's technology needs to grow every year, as technology itself grows, according to Managment Information Systems Manager Nancy Errico.

But the cost of the that technology could come with at least a $500,000 price tag.

"The only constant I can tell you about technology is that it's constantly changing," Errico said. 

In years past, the school had 300 computers and 20 printers, she said.  By the 2004-06 era, the new building housing Lincoln-Sudbury had 1,200 computers with more than 1,800 users.

Errico said the goal of technology use at the school is to support education. 

"It's not about acquiring devices, just the sake of acquiring devices," she said, stressing that technology is only useful in terms of what it can do for education.

"Whether you taught in 1892, 1992 or 2012, you always want to engage with your students. And today, your students are digital natives," said Errico about young people's high comfort level with computers, tablets, iPads, social media, cell phones and other tools of a new era.

A number of classes rely almost solely on technology, she said.  She described a history class that uses iPads.

"But it's not an iPad class. It's a modern civilization class," she said. 

Other classes allow students to use smartphones for various purposes, such as accessing information from a website.

L-S has a comfort level with allowing students and staff to bring devices into the school, Errico said. 

"It's not even a bring your own device environment, it's more like devices plural," she said, noting most students and staff own more than one device.

Errico said there's no significant problems with students using devices solely for recreational purposes during school hours. Superintendent/Principal Scott Carpenter noted that sites such as Facebook and YouTube are blocked. He said that when he walks past students who are using technology, it is for assignments and educational purposes the majority of the time.

"Sometimes people say, why doesn't every student have a tablet, or an iPad? Well, (the infrastructure) can't support the devices that are already there," Errico said, mentioning that L-S does not currently have a network infrastructure backbone to support hundreds of devices all at the same time.  She said a recent study found that 2,441 unique devices tried to access the network in a 24-hour period.

A full infrastructure upgrade would cost an estimated $500,000, Errico said, which would include a backbone network, hardware, expanded WIFI, increased bandwidth and professional development for teachers to make the best use of the new tools available.

"There's always going to have to be funds. It's like sewer or water," said Errico, explaining that even a fully upgraded infrastructure would need constant maintenance and updates, all of which would require regular funding. 

She showed a chart that indicated that with servers, mobile labs, special education services and more, the technology upgrade bill grows from $500,000 to $640,000.

Several members of the Finance Committee attended the presentation and asked about less expensive options, such as leasing programs that might help reduce yearly costs.

A full technology upgrade has not been budgeted or approved at this time, but School Committe members said they found it helpful to begin a discussion about technology needs.

Sudbury Citizen October 25, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Sio, with all due respect. Jack Ryan 6 years ago speaking on the LS budget " Their is no fat we are down to bones " . We all know that was BS. They found $ 175,000 in the postage machine, $ 225,000 in a 20 year old health care account, and now over $ 200,000 in overfunded payroll taxes. I don't trust ANYTHING they say about finances.
siobhan hullinger October 25, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Yes SC, I can understand your apprehension but this has to get done one way or the other. There is no way we can have an adequate educational experience in today's day and age with a server that can't support the classroom. Our elementary school education is wholly supported by current technology but when they get to the high school, everything changes. So are you saying that you would rather there be no technology usage at the high school because the budget is in question? Personally, I'm not willing to make that connection. Education is primo in my book and the tech piece is critical in today's world and methodologies. I would rather pay for a server than fund the CPC at this point. I would rather fund a server than pay for another debt exclusion for capital improvements we should be budgeting for in the first place. The server is necessary and it's a shame if you can't foresee the decimation of tech at the high school. Technology continues to expand in the hands of the consumer draining the capabilities of basic function in the classroom. Like I said - it is a need not a want ... and that I will fund.
Sudbury Citizen October 25, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Sio, I don't mind they buy the stuff, just do it within their budget each year. Do not ask me for an override or debt exclusion. They have the money, it just hidden.
Markian October 27, 2012 at 04:23 PM
I will not support this measure. If we are serious about technology for the future than owning an email server that will be out-of-date in 3-5 years is unrealistic. The Public School System, in specific LSHS, needs to move away from owning daily IT operations and services to a cloud based solution. Let the Cloud Base Service providers maintain Email, Chat, Scheduling/Calendaring, and other daily operational concerns. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Dell are all very good Cloud Based Service, just to name a few. The school should be paying a yearly educational rate to the providers and let them maintain the services. This model will ensure that the technology stays up-to-date, will limit supports cost/overhead, will be much more secure, and will ensure recovery of the data in case of a disaster – Disaster Planning (DR). The school should also not invest in PCs but invest in dummy terminals that run Virtual Machines (VM) of the Operating System of their choosing. They should focus on a good infrastructure, network (wifi/lan/wan) and gigabit network, which supports BYOD and VM technology. The School committee needs to put together an IT Strategic Roadmap and present what they feel the future needs are for our student and faculty/staff.
siobhan hullinger October 27, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Ian!! Those are all excellent points - move towards the future! I'm just a Mom trying to help in any way I can but I admit I'm not up on the future of technology. I'm sure the school would welcome your expertise and knowledge. Have you considered reaching out to Scott Carpenter to help formulate a plan? Your suggestions sound just like what w need from many stand points

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