Corporate or Revisionist History?

This time last year, I was beginning side conversations with county government to correct the course of our school system’s technology funding. I supplied sufficient data to show how erratic local funding over nearly a decade had created an aging computer inventory in schools.

As a result of inconsistent funding, 42% (or 1,243) of our computers are 7 years or older. Besides being unreliable and high maintenance, these computers are inadequate for handling up to 85% of the objectives in the Computer Skills Curriculum.

Faced with the reality that we would be maintaining computers for over seven years, our operational philosophy necessarily shifted toward power and durability as key factors to consider in purchasing computers. Cheap, late model computers from the bargain racks simply wouldn’t endure our typical computer lifespan.

Hence, the expensive durable laptops.

This argument resonated with county manager John Langdon as quoted in the News-Times on 6/22/07:

The county and school board also agreed to pursue a $2 million financing plan to replace computers in the schools.

In an e-mail sent to commissioners Tuesday, Mr. Langdon stated it was clear technology needs at the schools had been under-funded during the last seven years and as a result, the schools’ computer fleet was obsolete.

The data allowed Mr. Langdon to arrive at an alternative solution—stabilize funding and buy less expensive computers. His thoughts were captured in the Jacksonville Daily News (6/21/08):

The request includes $1.2 million to replace 780 outdated computers and other technology, but County Manager John Langdon sent out an e-mail Tuesday to school officials suggesting that amount may not be the most affordable or realistic route to take.

“That number may be too much for annual funding and won’t significantly improve excessive obsolescence (of computers) soon enough,” he said in the e-mail.

Langdon has proposed a financing plan much like one it just adopted for Carteret Community College improvements. The county would finance a $2 million loan to go toward school system technology needs.

Langdon said tight budget years and no technology funding in 2002 caused the technology replacement cycle for the schools to go astray over recent years. But he doesn’t see the practice of buying more expensive, higher-end computers to extend their lives somewhat longer as a good answer.

By buying computers at a lesser cost and implementing a more realistic replacement cycle, the proposed plan would purchase 1,475 computers, he said.

Then in August the final deal was struck for technology. This opened the door to a creative and beneficial partnership between the Board of Education and County Government.

Through creative bidding and setting a five-year replacement cycle, the county and the school system have struck a plan that both replaces computers and upgrades technology in schools and saves big money for taxpayers.

“It was a real incredible partnership between the school system and county government,” said Joe Poletti, director of technology and media for the school system, on the arrangement.

Here’s the entire News-Times article as documentation of the deal.

Why, even the erudite editors of the News-Times weighed in in support of significant technology funding in Mea Culpa.

Having had our minds opened to what school officials propose, we thank the individuals mentioned above for pointing out our blunder. We also second the schools’ request for “technology” needs, voicing a preference to lease rather than to purchase.

. . . and this is another benefit of Haulin’ ‘Net blog. It helps to preserve some corporate history no matter the turns in the blogger’s professional roadmap.

* * * *

So, it was with great intrigue, but little surprise as a new budget year approaches, that I read the print editorial from Mr. D. L. Darden in today’s News-Times (4/18/08):

Remember the $1500 laptop computers that school officials assured the taxpayers were the best price possible? Somehow the county manager found them for under $1,000.

No, Mr. Darden, we never said it was the best price possible. The above citations clearly demonstrate that we proposed durable and expensive laptops as the best value solution given the protracted computer lifespan into which our school system had been forced.

Mr. Langdon and the county commissioners agreed with that and moved to stabilize funding so that computers would be on a five-year replacement cycle. This is what opened the door to the less expensive models.

Mr. Darden’s feeble attempt to revise history and discredit the current Board of Education in the area of technology funding simply does not jibe with the evidence preserved here in the corporate record.

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