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Technology is lagging within Lake Oswego school district; upgrades to cost $1.5 million?

A technology committee recommended the Lake Oswego School District replace its antiquated servers and software at a cost of between $1.4 and $1.5 million.

'There is nothing extravagant on this list right now,' said committee member Dan Wolff, who works for McAfee. 'This is just keeping the lights on for now.'

The district's IT staff has gone from 10 to 3.5 full-time employees since 2002, therefore the committee's recommendations focused on improving infrastructure so that the IT staff 'can do more with less,' said Wolff.

The technology committee was formed last year in response to parent opinion that the district needed a better plan to fund hardware, software, IT personnel and teacher technology training.

Though the technology plan isn't quite complete yet, the committee updated the school board on Monday, March 14, with a list of things to improve the district's technology.

The committee's wish list could be backed by a general obligation bond, said committee member Randy Hargens, who works for IBM.

The committee conducted a survey earlier in the school year, which included a question about supporting a bond measure for technology and 73 percent of those polled said yes. Hargens acknowledges that the number is likely quite skewed because the people who responded to the survey were prone to be interested in technology.

Nonetheless, with the constricted budget the school district is working with, there are limited options for funding.

But thanks to a last year's Measure 68, school districts can now use bonds to cover capital acquisition, repair, construction or improvement costs, giving districts more latitude to purchase things like textbooks or technology. It does still exclude maintenance or routine supplies.

Prior to that, Measure 50 in 1997 specified that districts couldn't use funds for 'supplies or equipment that are not intrinsic to the structure,' such as computers or furnishings.

So far, the school board has not made a decision to seek voter approval of a bond.

The committee's wish list of technology improvements includes:

* Purchase new domain controllers with Windows server 2008 and migrate Active Directory to 2008: $50,000.

The server hardware, which was purchased in 2000-2001, is no longer supported and cannot be upgraded. Meanwhile, Active Directory, which identifies and authenticates users who log into the district network, is reaching the end of its life but could be updated once a new server is purchased.

* Purchase management system for desktop computers: $65,000.

Currently, the district has more than 2,500 computers that must be manually managed one at a time. Management software would enable district staff to automatically install software, ensure license compliance, collect inventory information and manage patches. Additionally, the system would include power management that would enable staff to turn on the computers for updates only when needed. The system would save $30,000.

* Pursue a hosted e-mail solution such as Microsoft Live@edu or Google Apps: $15,000.

The district runs its e-mail on old servers, which are always running low on disk space. Outsourcing the district could potentially save money. The district would not be alone in the move as many school districts and universities are moving to hosted e-mail.

* Replace 40 network switches and enable a move to wireless infrastructure and VoIP phone system: $200,000.

The district's network switches are between nine and 10 years old and are no longer supportered by the manufacturer. Not replacing them creates an increased staff burden, reduced functionality and performance and reduced security.

* Install wireless access points in all 13 schools: $100,000.

According to Donna Atherton, director of secondary education, 'Wireless will be a key enabler for us in the future years.' The district could choose to use mobile labs, which would free up classroom space presently occupied by computer labs.

There are currently two mobile carts in each high school. Though the district has no formal plans to add more, the committee is discussing the benefits of having either laptops on mobile carts or allowing students to bring devices to school.

'People have better home computers than we have … but equal access is an issue,' acknowledged Wolff. 'With some rules of the road, it can be made effective.'

* Upgrade Citrix servers, which allow teachers to have remote access to personal files and the district's applications: $30,000 (Staff pays $32 each to access the system).

The current system is eight years old and is no longer supported.

* Either establish and maintain a service contract on the telephone system or replace the telephone system altogether: $60,000 annually for a service contract or $1 million for a replacement.

The system was purchased in 1999 without any support. Many teachers use it sparingly, and some don't use it at all. Hargens asked, 'So many people have cell phones … is it even necessary?'

Hargens said that the phone system is probably at the bottom of the list of upgrades the district should consider.