Routt County school districts to merge tech services
South Routt plans to tap Steamboat to manage tech needs
May 15, 2012
Steamboat Springs — In a small room filled with towering data servers, colorful wires and blinking lights, Kandise Gilbertson said digital connections are vital to the Steamboat Springs School District.
Computers can be repaired and set up remotely. Security cameras beam their footage onto a DVR that can be reviewed at any moment. Servers can be updated with keystrokes.
But Gilbertson, a technology integration specialist for the district, said she hopes the wireless infrastructure is expanded beyond her own school district.
"If we can bring South Routt onto our network, we'll be able to help them because we have more network resources," she said Tuesday over the loud humming of fans that kept Steamboat Springs Middle School's data center at a comfortable 72 degrees. "We can rebuild machines, set up email accounts and add student accounts remotely."
South Routt contracted Steamboat this school year to help manage some of its technology needs and maintenance, and the smaller district plans to completely consolidate its tech services with its neighbor to the north next school year. Soon, a wireless connection between the two districts also might become a reality.
"I think it's something that should have been done a long time ago," Steamboat Springs School District Technology Director Tim Miles said about the collaboration. "If there's anything you can consolidate resources, it's in technology. We all need the same things, and there's no need for us to all reinvent the wheel."
In addition to consolidating their tech services, Steamboat and Soroco plan to connect their broadband networks through radio signals that will run between Yampa, Oak Creek and Emerald Mountain. The districts received $40,000 from the Education Fund Board to pursue the project that also would increase bandwidth in South Routt.
Miles said the collaboration between the districts started because they were "fighting for the same things but at different costs." He added that together, the two districts can get better pricing on hardware and other technology needs.
Soroco Superintendent Scott Mader said Tuesday that his school district faced two choices for next school year: to have Steamboat completely take over the technology department or to hire a technology director and have his district take on its own tech responsibilities.
"We wanted to get out of the middle ground," he said, referring to the current arrangement where Steamboat and Soroco essentially split South Routt's IT responsibilities. "We felt Steamboat has the expertise and the wherewithal to take it over and accept responsibilities. If we need a lot of help down here, we have access to their whole staff. It'll be like we're one of their schools."
Mader said the contract he will submit to his School Board on Thursday night would pay Steamboat $97,000 next year to provide technology services. Soroco currently employs one full-time technology specialist at a cost of $44,488, and it pays Steamboat $45,000 for technology services.
Under the new arrangement, Steamboat would hire two additional technology staff members, one who would serve full-time in Soroco and replace that district's current employee, and another who would work at both school districts. Miles said he would continue to work in Soroco one day per week. Both districts would maintain their separate budgets for technology.
"Right out of the gate, the win for Steamboat is that our staff will grow," Miles said. "We'll be able to put more bodies at more issues, and I'll have a body that's not assigned to specific tasks" who can pursue big projects.
Miles said his staff could pilot new technology in South Routt and help the district upgrade to Windows 7, among other things.
Mader said the partnership is a win-win for both districts, and the consolidation has him looking at other ways he can share resources with neighboring districts.
"If this works, who knows what other services we might be able to consolidate with Steamboat," he said. "I think that as small districts, we've got to think in that direction to save money and to get the best services we possibly can."
The South Routt School Board will consider approving the consolidation proposal Thursday night.
Service consolidation between Northwest Colorado school districts isn't limited to Steamboat and Soroco. The Hayden School District is finishing the second year of a transportation partnership with the Moffat County School District.
Hayden Superintendent Mike Luppes said contracting with Moffat to provide vehicle maintenance and driver training for Hayden saved the district about $20,000 last school year and allowed Moffat to retain maintenance workers.
"We're very pleased with the way it worked out," Luppes said.
He added that his district has had preliminary discussions about subcontracting electricians, plumbers and HVAC workers employed by the Moffat County School District.
"Our frame of mind over here is basically we're open to ideas that will help save money, that will be more efficient, but not reduce the services we're able to provide," he said.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com