It’s time for BoE to make hard decisions

Tue, 08/26/2008 - 3:04pm
By: The Citizen

I have been a Fayette County resident since 1984 and am sad to say that I have never attended a Board of Education meeting until [Aug. 21]. I did attend last night’s board meeting because of the proposed increase in school taxes and the proposed SPLOST to raise an additional $115,000,000 to operate the school system.

I was surprised and disappointed to see just a few concerned citizens at the meeting. At any rate, I did get to express my concerns and ask some questions.

I asked why the recent adopted budget was $197,000,000, yet, according to the B of E website, we spend $8,318 per student and we have 22,021 students. That comes to only $93,769,676. That’s $104,000,000 less than the proposed budget.

None of the board members could give me an answer, nor could Dr. DeCotis.

I brought up the 5,700 computers that they say will need to be purchased at a cost of $5,700,000. That’s $1,000 per computer. These are low-cost desktop computers that anyone can purchase for under $500, so why are we paying $1,000 each for these computers?

I also noted that our school system presently employs 3,777 people. If you divide that into 22,021 students, that is one employee for every 5.8 students. That seems to me a very low ratio.

I pointed out that in private industry, like the airline industry, when income falls short of paying the operating costs, furloughs, pay and benefit cuts are implemented, as we all can relate to with Delta and Northwest Airlines in the past and as Air Tran is doing now.

I also pointed out that the new $10,000,000 elementary school designed for 675 students will have 43 classrooms. That’s only 15.7 students per room. Seems to me that’s not making full use of the facility. At any rate, when this new school opens our school system is projected to have 700 less students than today.

I realize that city, county and state revenues are down because of the sluggish economy. Many of our citizens have lost their jobs and many have taken pay and benefit cuts. How can we justify asking these same citizens and many others on fixed incomes to pay more property taxes on property that is stagnant or going down in value and also ask them to pay more sales taxes?

The B of E members were elected and Dr. DeCotis hired to run our school system in good times and bad. The good times have passed. Now is the time that hard but necessary decisions will have to be made.

Nobody in private industry likes to cut back on jobs, pay or benefits, but these things are done in order to survive. Why is it in government the answer to deal with shortfalls in revenue is always to raise taxes?

I pointed out that, in private industry, when the hard times come, the CEO and management were the first to step up to the bitter plate and take pay cuts to set an example. I suggest folks in government need to do the same before raising taxes that never seem to go down.

Vic Remeneski

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Submitted by SaveFayette on Sat, 08/30/2008 - 10:19am.


This is an excellent analysis on current technology available to the school system. As usual it appears that the government is working in its usual inefficient way. Unfortunately, finding out exactly how the BOE came up with this estimated amount for computers would require either, a lot of money in fees, or a court order. It is my opinion that they simply multiplied $1,000 times the number of students. The source of funds is only limited by the ability of the government to keep us in the dark.

If you are interested in having a more open government in Fayette County, please e-mail me at

Your talents are needed in helping organize our efforts.


James Wingo

Submitted by Bryan47 on Wed, 08/27/2008 - 6:04pm.

I thoroughly enjoyed your letter Mr. Remeneski and I applaud you for your inquiries to the Fayette County Board of Education (FCBOE), even if unanswered. I have been a Fayette County Resident for six years and obviously do not have the depth of knowledge and understanding of the workings of the local government entities like those who have been here for ten years or more. However, I have worked for, next to, and around government for years. This includes the Department of Defense and the State of Georgia. So, I understand all too well and am more than familiar with the incredibly inefficient, wastefulness, and ineffective ways of government. I also understand that the FCBOE is crying over their financial problems like many of us are during this very hard time. So, to this end I am illustrating a much different path available to them right now, today that can save us money.

I am a Software Quality Engineer and so one might say that computers systems and the software that operates them are my well within my skill set. The FCBOE has clearly told us that they need $5,700,000.00 for 5,700 computers. And as you clear pointed out, this is indeed $1,000.00 per computer. However, as an alternative the FCBOE could purchase a Dell Studio Hybrid® with a 19 wide flat panel monitor running Windows Vista® at a cost of $700.00 per computer before any special discounts for public sector education pricing in quantity. That should bring the overall price down below $500.00 per computer effectively cutting the $5.7 million in half to $2,850,000.00. I would also image that there were to be some laptop purchases in this mix for teachers and staff. The actual allocation of what types of computers is unknown to the public. The same company has nice a rather nice laptop that would be much more than most teachers would even come close to surpassing the capabilities of for $500.00 each. Plus they come in fourteen different colors. I used Dell as a reference point because they are well known and they have a wide range of computing products just to make my point of cutting the need for funds in half.

There are even more options to purchasing computing resources than outright buying 5,700 computers that will again need replacing in four to five years. One such example is the School District of Bowling Green in Kenwood, Ohio. They purchased a new product from NComputing called an X300. This product contains virtualization software that allows up to three additional display/keyboard/mouse sets to be added to a single computer with virtually no impact on performance. So, you have four students using that same computer. Each student is tapping in on the almost always idle capacity of the computer for a fraction of the cost of a single computer. Moreover, this same company manufactures an L-series device that allows for up to 10 users per computer. Both products allow each user their own settings, applications, data files, etc. just like they each had their own computer with far less cabling requirements and power requirements. This product is available from Tiger Direct at a cost of $220.00 for the X300 each or $775.00 for the complete bundle (e.g. monitors, keyboards, mice, and the X300). Just food for thought the X300 can actually be boosted to seven users for each computer. Nearly all applications on the host computer can be shared. Students can also work simultaneously on different applications. For example, one student can conduct research on the Internet while others are e-mailing or using office-productivity or basic multimedia software. In short, they are not going to interfere with one another and they require no additional training whatsoever to operate. The only potential drawback is that because only computer is being used, the number of USB ports to plug in peripherals, such as a digital camera, is limited and students can play only one CD at a time. These two limitations would be insignificant in almost all educational environments as witnessed by the number of school districts that have already implemented this.

The FCBOE advertises that our School District needs 5,700 computers. Out of that let’s assume that about three-quarters of these are for students. That equals 4,275 computers for students. Divide that number by 3 and that equals the number of computers they’ll need to support the X300 configuration, which equals 1,425. That leaves us with needing 2,850 X300’s to purchase assuming that we already have enough keyboards, monitors, and mice. The grand total for 1,425 times the $500.00 per unit for a total of $712,500.00 and the 2,850 times the $220.00 each equals $627,000.00. This totals $1,339,500.00, a far cry from $5.7 million. For the remaining 1,450 computers that need to be laptops at $500.00 a copy that also equals $712,500.00. The entire cost of implementing this technology for our needs would be $2,052,00.00 before shipping. Even at this price it should be no charge to ship from the supplier to Fayette County. Total savings would be 64% of the $5.7 million for a total of $3,648,000.00 in cost avoidance. And all by being smarter and wiser about how computing resources are purchased.

There are additional non-cost benefits to this technology. Across this country in schools with minimal resources, students often take turns using a computer or work in pairs. This type of implementation has the ability to give more students more access with less cost. If for any reason our students have uneven access to technology and connectivity, they’re going to have uneven access to learning using that technology. This type of implementation would surely address that problem. Some of the teachers interviewed also appreciated how much space the terminals saved at each workstation. That means no more computers sitting on desks, tables or floors. Because the footprint required by the computer shrinks the size of work space needed shrinks allowing the ability to more workstations in the classroom. You might be able to accommodate 20 to 25 where you could only have 15 to 17 before.

In addition to the up-front cost savings, this computing model has another payoff. Since the units require less energy, schools are saving energy and lowering costs at the same time. The average computer uses about $120.00 of energy a year and if you multiply that by the just the 2,850 computers we didn’t buy and that would total more than $300,000.00 in potential energy savings. The X300 requires no external power adapter as it gets power from the base computer it is connected to. So, this solution also is more environmentally “green.” And to reiterate the X300 requires less cabling, which also saves money, and most of the software needed by students would only be installed on the one computer per group, which also saves time and money. Repairs would be quicker and maintenance less costly as the school district wouldn’t need to maintain 2,850 computers that were replaced by the X300.

The bottom-line here is that this technology exists now, has already been installed in other school districts successfully, can be purchased now, and our students can really benefit. This isn’t experimental and it surely isn’t something we have to wait years to get our hands on. This is surely a win-win scenario in that our School District wins, out teachers win, the students win, and the taxpayer who pays all of the government’s bills wins. The FCBOE has no excuse for not implementing this technology now before they go and spend more than $3 million unnecessarily and spending more money for energy costs while doing it. My question is, “why isn’t the FCBOE looking into implementing these types of improvements to our students learning environments with wiser technology implementations while saving a significant amount of revenue?”

- Bryan

MainframeComputerGuy's picture
Submitted by MainframeComputerGuy on Sun, 08/31/2008 - 10:52pm.

Whew! Thank you Bryan! And Mr. Remeneski! As someone who has spent my entire life in computers (albeit not the toys -- never trust a computer you can lift or step over) you are both absolutely correct. $1K/computer for laptops for children is ridiculous -- they must be overloaded with unecessary software and services that have pushed this price so far out of line. My company uses Dell laptops and our price is right around there for one used by an "adult", including Microsquash Office and some other niceties. However, I wouldn't recommend going with some no-name newbie appliance that might be unsupported (ie; bankrupt) in a year either.

As someone who worked for THE computer manufacturer for 33 years I can tell you that they all want their brand in the schools and will practically give them away to get them there -- what kids learn on they tend to want to use and buy as they get older. This is just one example of FCBOE's version of Firehouse #7 -- pad it up "for the children" and keep the "Director of Mediocre Students and Their Mommas" on the payroll.

Vote NO on the SPLOST!! No more taxes I can't deduct!

Submitted by SaveFayette on Mon, 09/01/2008 - 3:04pm.

I would like you to consider getting in the fight for open government. Please get involved or more nonsense like this will continue. Please search my name on this site for details.

James Wingo

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