Tech commission proposes overhaul

Plans to cost $1.37M; address district's software, hardware needs

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— The Technology Commission is proposing a significant software and network upgrade in the Steamboat Springs School District that will cost a substantial amount of money.

During Wednesday's budget presentation for the 2007-08 school year, district technology director Tim Miles asked the Education Fund Board to support his $1.37 million technology plan for the district.

It is nearly $500,000 more than the Technology Commission asked for last year.

"I'm going to present to you large numbers," Miles said before Wednesday's presentation. "I came from a very poor school district, so I'm used to making money stretch. That's what I want to do here."

The Technology Commission is one of three branches of the Fund Board. The other two branches are the Capital and Educational Excellence commissions. The Fund Board oversees spending of the city's half-cent sales tax for education.

Every winter, the commissions come before the Fund Board for an initial reading of the funding requests for the next school year, giving Fund Board members a chance to ask questions and address concerns they may have about the requests before a final reading.

The Fund Board then allocates a specific amount of money to each commission to spend on needs, but the Fund Board ultimately decides how the money will be spent. The Steamboat Springs School Board then votes whether to accept Fund Board gifts.

Technology is an ever-growing element of school curriculum across the country based on national and state standards for students relative to technology literacy.

On Wednesday, Miles proposed the Fund Board spend $225,500 to upgrade software such as purchasing new Microsoft leases, upgrading elementary school software and renewing licenses for other software.

"Technology changes faster than the budget allows, faster than money is allocated," Miles said. "Our core software is four versions old. The OS software is three versions old. We are still dealing with problems Microsoft fixed seven years ago."

Miles proposed spending $120,000 to consolidate the district's network. Currently, the district network has five domains, meaning a district employee working between buildings needs a separate account for each building. A single domain would ease management, improve security and allow for more mobility.

The most talked about sum arguably is the $425,000 to implement the Citrix system. The system lengthens desktop life, standardizes deployment of applications and enables students and staff to work out of the classroom, Miles said.

"If we are successful here, we will be on the map nationwide with what we are able to do with this system," he said.

Miles has been talking about the Citrix system for months so many Fund Board members were familiar with his proposal.

"The obvious question is 'can this be phased in?'" Fund Board member Peter Remy asked.

Miles shook his head.

"I apologize for that, but to be successful it cannot be phased in," he said.

The proposed changes would create a demand for training, which is why Miles proposed spending $50,000 on training, in addition to the $390,000 to fund five staff members' salaries and benefits.

Fund Board member Michael Loomis asked Miles for a breakout of staff salaries before the second reading.

Fund Board member Tom Ptach asked it if was possible for the district to consider paying the salaries of technology staff much like the district did for teachers and support staff needed to implement programs funded by Educational Excellence.

"I've talked about getting to a point where the Fund Board pays extras," Ptach said. "Maybe in 1992, a tech director or tech person was extra to have. I can't imagine it is in 2007. I would like to get the ongoing tech staff out of the Fund Board and into the district (budget)."

Miles reminded Fund Board members that he expects the district to save money in the long-term, but the next two years, if they approve his proposal, they should expect increased spending.

Fund Board accountant Paul Strong recommend Miles provide Fund Board members the cost saving analysis for the second reading in order to counter the large request.

- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

Zac Brennan 7 years, 7 months ago

Citrix is a great idea. We use it at my company. Remote access from home provides flexability. Our children and teachers would benefit from its availability.

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WZ 7 years, 7 months ago

I'm not surprised the words "Microsoft" and "problems" were mentioned in the same sentence.

I'm curious what other solutions/options were knowledgably researched and presented.

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techdubb12 7 years, 7 months ago

phrog, amen.

Installing the newest version of Ubuntu with OpenOffice on each machine would be much cheaper. (understatement of the hour.)

For anyone worried about not being able to run MS based applications, please research virtualization programs such as WINE.

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phidgt 7 years, 7 months ago

The problem here is that no one is capable of thinking outside of the box in Steamboat. What they know best is how to throw huge amounts of money around without looking at more cost effective alternatives. Perhaps Mr. Miles could do a bit of Googling - try "open source virtual private network software". The $425,000 he wants to spend on the Citrix program is an unnecessary expenditure. The other benefit of using open source software is that the additional costs for renewing and updating the software annually is nonexistent. Miles also wants to spend $120,000 to consolidate the networks, which again, is an unnecessary expenditure. I would like to know if anyone has looked into these types of alternatives.

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JustSomeJoe 7 years, 7 months ago

I think you guys are comparing apples and oranges. We use citrix at my company too. The citrix solution is about replacing individual desktops for dumb terminals and replacing the maintenance associated with a PC (or Apple or Linux box), as well as the need to replace those desktops every 3-4 years. Citrix also solves the need to maintain software on desktops by centralizing administration of the software, a lot less walking around.

Open source code is a whole other issue. Most companies wont use open source code because it isn't "maintained" by a company that will fix any issues. If there's an issue with a open source piece of code, we can't have teachers, administrators or students waiting on a fix by the open source community. Yes it's cheaper, but has its drawbacks in a critical processing environment (yes, our kids education is critical).

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techdubb12 7 years, 7 months ago

JustSomeJoe:

"...we can't have teachers, administrators or students waiting on a fix..."

Would that be something like, "Microsoft has no new security updates planned for Tuesday, despite at least five zero-day vulnerabilities that are waiting to be fixed."? [ http://news.zdnet.com/2100-1009_22-6165647.html ]


As far as, "Most companies wont use open source code because it isn't "maintained" by a company that will fix any issues." This notion is not true.

For instance, the linux distribution Ubuntu is currently being developed by the company Canonical Ltd.. There is a section to submit bugs to developers and patched versions of Ubuntu are administered much like Windows Updates.

Though "most" companies do not use OSS, there are some stories in the news to take note of:

FAA May Ditch Microsoft's Windows Vista And Office For Google And Linux Combo [ http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=197800480 ]

PSA Peugeot Citroûn Chooses SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop from Novell [ http://www.novell.com/news/press/item.jsp?id=1274 ]

Red Hat Claims Microsoft Victory [ http://newsvac.newsforge.com/newsvac/07/02/10/2021206.shtml ]

Russian Schools to Switch to Linux After Microsoft Piracy Case [ http://www.mosnews.com/news/2007/02/07/linuxschool.shtml ]


At no point am I calling Citrix in to question. Anything I can find on the system makes it appear to be a great way to serve desktops and applications to terminals throughout a network. However, after about thirty seconds of google searching, I found this:

Citrix burning a hole in your pocket? Get 2X ApplicationServer for $995 [ http://www.2x.com/applicationserver/citrix.htm ]

Is OSS the perfect solution? No. And at no time am I claiming it to be. However, seeing school district's technical officials ask for 1.37 million dollars before even laying out a potential open source alternative plan is just painful to a *nix user's ears.

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phidgt 7 years, 7 months ago

"The citrix solution is about replacing individual desktops for dumb terminals and replacing the maintenance associated with a PC (or Apple or Linux box), as well as the need to replace those desktops every 3-4 years." This is exactly what open source software can do. I can take a laptop without a hard drive, boot it to a cd and log into any computer on the network. I can see the files and use any of the programs that are available. I can log in remotely and I do not need fancy hardware to achieve this. I would love to see Citrix do that. All I am asking is for somebody to please wake up and realize that the amount of money being requested is so completely and unbelievably ridiculous!

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JustSomeJoe 7 years, 7 months ago

Techdubb and phidgt - sounds like you should get involved in the process since you both have strong feelings. Posting to a message board after the story is in the paper is Monday morning quarterbacking. Throwing stones without presenting your ideas falls short of productive. Looks like you both have good alternatives with plenty of internet backup, but you never presented them. Joe

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JustSomeJoe 7 years, 7 months ago

phrog - must be nice to think in only absolutes. Makes it much easier to be right all the time. - Joe

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techdubb12 7 years, 5 months ago

In recent tech news, this group has been formed to solve the very issue which this story and following comments address.

http://www.os4ed.com/

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