Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Technology Improvements for Schools and City

      On Thursday, September 24th, the Appropriations Committee of the Melrose Board of Aldermen unanimously recommended to the full Board a $300,000 appropriation for technology investments in the City of Melrose and Melrose Public Schools. The Board is expected to consider this recommendation at its next full meeting. For details on technology plans, surveys, price quotes, product specification sheets, and deployment plans, click here: http://melrosecityma.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=2701. To watch the meeting, click here: http://www.mmtv3.org/index.php?categoryid=28. 

      Highlights from remarks made by Melrose Chief Information Officer Jorge Pazos:

*  This order requests an appropriation to fund the first year of a five-year technology capital lease that would allow the City to purchase equipment necessary to address long standing technology needs for the City of Melrose and the Melrose Public Schools.  We also seek the Board’s approval to enter into the five-year lease that would allow for this purchase. This expenditure is not a bond but a lease that is being supported within the City’s regular operating budget.

*  What will these improvements mean for the City?
       ~ Enable Public Safety personnel to access the critical systems they depend on.
       ~ Enable teachers to access the latest instructional tools and utilize the latest instructional methods.
       ~ Enable students to benefit from these tools and methods while preparing them for the next phase of their lives once they leave the Melrose Public Schools.
       ~ Address infrastructure needs such as networking improvements, City and school district wireless networking, data center needs such as storage, and next generation firewalls that protect and monitor our infrastructure investment.
       ~ Update the computing devices used by City and school staff and students. These computing devices, computers, Chromebooks, and iPads, are the gateways used by everyone that allows them to work and learn in a modern way.

*  We were able to negotiate approximately $624,000 savings over the standard state contract pricing.

*  The plan is to order and lease this equipment immediately. Working with the manufacturers we would determine actual shipping timelines for all of the equipment and build a deployment schedule based on that information.  The majority of this work will be completed by City and School staff.  There are some contractors being hired to complete work associated with wiring and deployment of wireless access points, mainly at Melrose High School.

*  The goal is to have this equipment up and running as soon as possible with substantial completion of the project by February, 2016.  

*  Why now? We desperately need it and we should have been doing it for years. This foundational plan, in part, aims to provide for our students to be 21st Century learners. Consider also that this plan concludes in 2020 - 20% of the way through the 21st Century. How much longer can we afford to put this off?

*  Consider that:

     ~  The City invests in areas such as energy efficiency, road improvements, water and sewer system improvements to name a few; yet we don't provide all of the necessary tools for our employees to manage, track and maintain these investments.  Tools such as modern computers to run GIS mapping to identify the location of underground infrastructure and computer aided drafting to allow our engineers to design and update plans of this infrastructure.  And computers that run management applications, used to manage and control our improved HVAC and lighting systems.
     ~  We insist that educators make data driven decisions but we do not provide the tools for them to collect, analyze and act on that data.

     ~  In the 15 years I've served in this role, the school department has budgeted barely over $150,000 for computer replacements in its budget.

There has been no responsible plan for the consistent replacement of technology equipment, in large part because there is never enough money and it is never a good time.  I am here to implore that you understand this is a necessary expenditure.