Pickerington schools to rework technology to save district money

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Pickerington Schools plan to rework much of its technology based on the advice of Mark Souders, an educational technology consultant who Superintendent Dr. Karen Mantia hired.

After spending more than two weeks meeting with principals and technology staff "somethings just jumped out at me," Souders said.

Perhaps the largest area for improvement would be the infrastructure. Currently, the district leases 10 megabytes of Internet service from AT&T for about $100,000 a year. Each school has a separate server.

Souders recommends that the district invest in its own fiber optic network that would provide 100 megabytes of bandwidth.  Although there would be an initial set-up cost, the district would no longer have to pay an annual fee.

The price to run the cable throughout the district along existing utility poles could vary from $256,000 to $390,000. Therefore the district would break even on the investment within four years at most.

The fiber optic wire carries a 20-year warranty, however Souder expects it would last much longer.

Souder recommends that the district make the service change in phases with the first phase being the three new schools set to open in the fall of 2009. 

The existing schools have more than two years remaining on a five-year contract with AT&T and early cancellation would cost the district a 50 percent penalty.

In addition to saving the district money and providing service 10 times as fast, the new infrastructure could allow for a centralized server and a more "robust" Web site, Souder said.

Changes to the Web site have already begun. In September parents of children in grades 5-12 will receive usernames and passwords to check their students’ grades online, Pickerington schools director of technology Walt Podgurski said.

By the 2009-2010 school year, parents of students in kindergarten through fourth grade will have this ability as well.

Eventually, the Web site will enable students to work on class projects from home and will include cafeteria schedules. Souder also recommended more than doubling the amount of technology staff to meet the needs of the district.

At its Aug. 11 meeting, the school board approved the first two new positions, a Network Administrator for $52,704 per year and a help desk manager at a salary of $20.60 per hour.

The help manager would be the equivalent to the person you would call from home when your new computer has a problem, Mantia said.

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