More SPLOST information has now vanished

Claude Paquin's picture

The school board once wanted us to see the first PowerPoint presentation it prepared as justification for an extra 1 percent sales tax. Good students that we are, let’s continue the critical analysis we started last week.

Old Slide 9 has this to say about computers: (1) 4,500 computers will be returned to Dell next summer — we need to purchase replacements, (2) an additional 1,200 computers will come off warranty and need to be replaced, and (3) $5.7 million [will be needed] to replace computers.

The school system has 22,000 students, 1,800 teachers, and obviously at least 5,700 computers.

It is hard to say what these computers are all used for, and whether this large number of computers is warranted.

I don’t know what Dell is planning to do with these 4,500 returned computers next summer, but I suspect they’ll have little value to Dell. Thus, the school board could attempt to persuade Dell to just give them away to the school system, or to sell them to the school system for a bargain price. These computers may have at least a year or two of useful life left.

The second statement, that 1,200 computers will come off warranty and will have to be replaced, is most bothersome. I do not know the nature and duration of these warranties. If they are short warranties, isn’t it extravagant to assume the computer is no good once the warranty has run out? If they are extended warranties, why were they bought when all consumer publications tell us these warranties are overpriced?

An organization with that many computers has little need of warranties. It can have its own maintenance department, or even have an arrangement with organizations like Griffin Tech to have its electronics students fix them free as part of their training.

The $5.7 million figure given for the replacement of 5,700 computers obviously sets a cost of $1,000 per computer for the new computers. That seems to greatly exaggerate the real cost of computers in today’s market, as excellent and powerful desktop computers can be had for $250 to $350. Even with a new widescreen monitor, a computer can be had for under $500, as Dell’s website will show.

On Aug. 27, local resident and software quality engineer Bryan W. McMillan wrote an extensive comment in a Citizen blog on these 5,700 computers. Totally independently of me, he readily agreed the $5.7 million cost could be cut at least in half. Then he suggested the use of a special device which allows four students to share one computer (each with his own monitor, keyboard and mouse) so the number of new computers could be reduced by 75 percent.

He also alluded to ways of reducing the space needed for the students using these computers, and to the reduction in electricity cost from using the system he described. (See

In old Slide 9, the school board told us this $5.7 million item is its most critical need in next year’s budget. It is clear the school board never did its homework and is crying wolf for nothing. An intelligent school board would need far, far less.

The school system claims it also needs a Student Information System. No description or price is given. I assume this system consists of software to keep track of students and their grades. Without knowing what the Fayette school system does now, and what other school systems use, it is hard to know whether our school system is deprived of anything.

Old Slides 10 to 16 displayed a list of potential cuts designed as an exquisite form of torture for parents of students in our schools. They are almost like an invitation to watching sausage being made.

Some of the cuts, such as reducing salaries across the board to save $3 million, do not seem so bad. (It’s 1.7 percent.) Others, such as removing one-half of an assistant principal in each elementary school, to save $777,460, seem rather odd. Here I thought only magicians could cut people in half without going to prison (if they put them back together).

Other cuts seem downright mean, such as removing one art teacher, music teacher and computer lab instructor (out of how many?) at each elementary school, or the 5th grade band.

In the end, the school system claims it could cut $15.7 million.

The public has no real way of figuring out whether all these positions are essential, or whether they are even useful and worth the money.

The school board is entrusted with hiring administrators who are competent for the job and willing to do it. It is up to the superintendent to make sound recommendations based upon careful and unrushed study.

What the evidence points to here is a superintendent who passes the buck onto a school board that is all too willing to micromanage, and the board passes the buck onto the public. Obviously, some members of the public have caught on, as they realize some school board claims, as with the computers, are ridiculous.

After the assorted complaints and threats of the first 16 slides comes the 4-slide section on inducements.

Old Slide 17 stated a SPLOST could raise $100 million to $115 million over five years. That’s true. The Fayette County website shows that the road SPLOST tax that began in April 2005 now brings in between $20 and $21 million a year.

Old Slide 18 indicates that the funds might be used to pay off some of the bonds, technology (computers) and software, security improvements, school buses, facilities renovations, textbook adoption(?), and relocation of warehouse.

Old Slide 19 states the school bond millage could be reduced, but it did not state the Maintenance and Operations millage (now 19.75) would be reduced.

Old Slide 20 showed anticipated millage and tax bill reductions on a $250,000 home between 2010 and 2016. The yearly average is $113 (over 7 years).

In new Slide 26, the school board asks this question: Why not pay these costs (facilities, buses, etc.) with bonds?

Indeed, why not. The answer discloses the board’s manic phobia about paying interest by stating the word “interest” four times, including once in each of the first three sentences. It wants to avoid paying interest.

And what interest rates are we talking about? That’s what the board does not want you to know. It’s probably between 4 and 5 percent. (We’ll talk about that later.)

What the slides, new or old, do not show is that the school bond millage of 4.17 ($417 for a $250,000 home) is already scheduled to go down to less than 2.50 ($250) in the fall of 2010, and even lower afterwards. Regardless of SPLOST there will be a substantial reduction in the school bond tax.

It is obviously not wise to sit passively at a PowerPoint presentation on SPLOST without wondering about the information that might be false, misleading or missing. If we expected the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth from the school board, this may be yet another case of voter beware.

The old slides could last be seen by accessing the school system’s website (, opening the window under School Board and clicking Board Meeting Agendas, 8/4/2008 6:45:00 PM Agenda, then 4. Presentation of ESPLOST proposal, and finally SPLOST Information updated 8-15-08.ppt. A free PowerPoint reader can be had at to view this file.

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Submitted by johngeorgejames on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 8:02pm.

I think that he 'paqued' it in. Didn't like the comment of not being asked to represent the board or even be consulted. Maybe he has taken to his 'chambers'. Maybe he's getting a court order to find out who I am- or maybe he already knows- based on my inside info!

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 8:12pm.

Protect that school board at all costs!

Submitted by johngeorgejames on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 8:16pm.

Only in his dreams.

Submitted by boo boo on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 9:53pm.

But I sure wish Mr. Paquin was a member of this school board and then we wouldn't be dealing with this mess now. A Splost would never have been needed because of poor management. This school board is incompetent that is the bottom line. It has been mismanaged long enough. Why this county saw fit to re-elect this group is beyond me. Wake up people. Do your research on these people running for office, Local, State, and National...It's YOUR MONEY!!!!! The way things are looking we are all going to have to do a LOT with LESS and that is the bottom line. NO on SPLOST....Make do with what you have...

Spear Road Guy's picture
Submitted by Spear Road Guy on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 8:36pm.

Sure sounnds like it!

Vote Republican

Submitted by johngeorgejames on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 8:43pm.

They don't pay nearly enough!
But, maybe you could run... if the one cent sales tax really gets to you- you must sell real estate!
Sounds like you've been BUSH HOGGED!
Vote Democrat!
Wait, I can't speak for Ringo.. maybe that's Dr. DeCotis' alias!

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 8:25pm.

Claude is a critic of the school board's fiscal mismanagement, and because you don't have a response to his charges, you resort to personal attacks and innuendo.

Submitted by johngeorgejames on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 8:37pm.

The other bloggers nullified his "concerns" in their factual comments- which they actually researched- I simply added some insight and some humor (I called him Clude..hahah)

Submitted by johngeorgejames on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 11:11am.

Claude, could you have a grudge against Fayette County BOE because they didn't hire you to represent them?? They didn't even consult you as to whom you thought they should hire. Left you out of the loop totally?? Lawyers are so known for their fine upstanding behavior...

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 11:51am.

Why not try debating the merits of Mr. Paquins argument, rather than a clumsy "shoot the messenger" schtick?

Submitted by johngeorgejames on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 12:00pm.

Just calling as it is.

Submitted by parentforsplost on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 10:52am.

The sad part Mr. Paquin is that you do not care for facts or quality schools. You have used this lone example to paint thousands of Fayette teachers with wild innuendo and implied that our teachers are less that the professionals they are.

Well you will be happy to know that your words have had an impact! This weekend teachers and parents from several schools have come together and built a list of advertisers in both the print and internet editions of The Citizen. They are tired of the slime and smear tactics that you and others are using to make your political points. We are sending your electronic footnote to your advertisers to decide if they agree with your opinions about our teachers.

As a lawyer, you will argue that you were making a point about webcams as you have done above. Now, the jury of your advertisers will have to weigh their verdict. In our schools our children are taught that words have meaning, say what you mean and mean what you say.

Spear Road Guy's picture
Submitted by Spear Road Guy on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 8:02pm.

No, bullies like parentforsplost can't speak to the issues because they're bankrupt on ideas.

They want an expensive Wall Street bailout package too. So they want to bully the newspaper to shut the opposition up. They're too dumb to see they're proving Paquin's point!!!

It's all about them baby.

Go look at the Best Buy flyer in the AJC and you'll see what the school board is demanding is way out of line.

Vote Republican

Submitted by johngeorgejames on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 8:20pm.

Go look at the gas prices, food prices, water bill, electric bill, college tuition, heck look at the prices of everything + layoffs.
- I already have a computer.
Vote Democrat

Submitted by johngeorgejames on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 11:25am.

I have a few questions that I would like to be included as you try to rebut and dispute the slime and smear tactics of this paper toward our schools.
1. Has the good Citizen ever printed too many newspapers in a wk.?
2. How about too few?
Too many, too few??- CLEARLY MISMANAGEMENT Let's get rid of Cal and staff!
I'm sure that Cal Beverly and his staff prints the exact amount that is needed every wk. (Why, because they give it away!! And that's about all it's worth)
Why have Cal and his staff decided to go to war with our schools?
Cal has always been at war with the public schools of Fayette County.
The Citizen is the reason that the county had to hire a Public Information Officer in the first place. Misquotes and twisting of facts have been have chronic for many years.
I think they should be banished to Clayton County! (This is how it started there)-
Could it be that Cal is bored and he is trying to make some real news (Fayette county losing accreditation, now that would be news, wouldn't it Cal.?).
Maybe you could start charging for your paper if you had some news like that.

Spear Road Guy's picture
Submitted by Spear Road Guy on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 8:26pm.

Your arguments suck wind buddy. If the Citizen newspaper is poorly managed, they go out of business. But if your chums on the school board have poor management, they keep digging money out of my wallet. There's a big difference crackpot.

You can't seem to list any of those "twisted facts." How about it?

You look like the one knee deep in innuendo and smear tactics. Cough up some misquotes or twisted facts buddy.

Don't you know you can go to Democrat Hell for fibbing.

Vote Republican

hutch866's picture
Submitted by hutch866 on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 12:04pm.

Maybe you can answer this question for me as you seem to be so so for our BOE, why did we not hear anything about a splost until the elections were over? Do you not think that they were dishonest in the way they went about this splost? Let's hear your spin on this one.

I yam what I yam....Popeye

Submitted by Y oh Y on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 11:09pm.

Article in Citizen 11/28 2006 " SPLOST or school bond eyed for 2008"

4/30/2007 Finance work session after called meeting

3/29/2008 Planning Institute

For three without much looking. Sad thing is that all of us are guilty of not going to most of these meetings. Appearantly even some of our school board members miss them.

hutch866's picture
Submitted by hutch866 on Tue, 09/30/2008 - 5:17am.

Why do you and jgj keep dancing around the question? When these people were campaigning not a word was said about this, why oh why was that? Your right about something, I don't have the time to go to all of the meetings with the county commission, city council and school board and what not.

I yam what I yam....Popeye

Submitted by johngeorgejames on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 7:43pm.

To which election are you referring? 1999? 2007?
The primary this past July?
I believe that they had not announced the need for it THIS year - because the budget was incomplete. Sonny boy and the other Republican'ts hadn't quite finished pulling the rug out from under the school systems. Plus, have you noticed that the economy has just fallen apart in the last few months? Are you paying more for everything that you buy? Well, the school system is too...From gas to wax for the floors to text books (I could go on, but I think that you get it..) All the while tax rev. is down -

hutch866's picture
Submitted by hutch866 on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 8:06pm.

Come, come now lets not be obtuse about the question. I believe you know what election I was referring to, you're saying that in the six days after the election the whole picture changed, and yet they had the time to put together the whole splost package. But, lets be clear, out of all the BOE members, not one had an inkling that we needed a splost, until just 6 days after the election, that's your reasoning, that's all you got? It's all the Republicans fault? How many of the school board members do you think are Republicans?

I yam what I yam....Popeye

Submitted by johngeorgejames on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 8:53pm.

I guess it wasn't you who told the story on here from back in 1999 and the open house at Flat Rock.. sorry..

hutch866's picture
Submitted by hutch866 on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 9:18pm.

Finally you've gotten something right, it wasn't me talking about 1999, I'm only concerned about the present, and I feel that we the people were, if not lied to, were at least not kept informed and that the people who were up for election and the people who weren't for that matter, were dishonest about the splost. I also noticed that you never answered any of the questions I asked, although that in itself answered my question. The school board just reaffirmed my decision to vote against the incumbents and to tell you the truth, you don't do anything to help them either.

I yam what I yam....Popeye

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 11:49am.

1. Has the good Citizen ever printed too many newspapers in a wk.?
2. How about too few?
Too many, too few??- CLEARLY MISMANAGEMENT Let's get rid of Cal and staff!
Cal and the Citizen are private businesses. Should they make mistakes, the taxpayers are not called upon to bail them out
I'm sure that Cal Beverly and his staff prints the exact amount that is needed every wk. (Why, because they give it away!! And that's about all it's worth)
Why have Cal and his staff decided to go to war with our schools?
Because like most people in Fayette county, they have come to the realization that our school board has been not been managing the county's tax dollars wisely
Cal has always been at war with the public schools of Fayette County.
The Citizen is the reason that the county had to hire a Public Information Officer in the first place. Misquotes and twisting of facts have been have chronic for many years.
The reason that Fayette county is one of the smallest school systems in Georgia to employ a full time public relations officer is because Dr. Decotis is an exceptionally poor public speaker. While he is an effective manager, few would call him a "leader". He seems singularly unable to face the public when there is bad news to disseminate
I think they should be banished to Clayton County! (This is how it started there)-
Could it be that Cal is bored and he is trying to make some real news (Fayette county losing accreditation, now that would be news, wouldn't it Cal.?).
Cal is interested in improving our school system, unlike, say, you and your "protect the school board" agenda

Submitted by johngeorgejames on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 7:54pm.

To Cal and all the "Calites"- If the school system did their job like you do yours (HALF TRUTHS, LIES, ONESIDED STORIES, HISTERICAL FINGERPOINTING, ETC.) it would be in the toilet with Cla Co. Now that really would sell papers, wouldn’t it?
Dear Tax Payers of Fayette County. It is a one cent sales tax. The tax does not apply to food products. Go to the Wal-Mart in Fayetteville and look at the out-of-county tags… let’s let them help us pay for our quality schools.

Submitted by PeteSake on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 6:44am.

I checked with FCBOE's Director of Technology, just as you could have done yourself. The webcam was not provided by the school system. He brought it in himself. The taxpayers did not provide it. The computers they have now don't have webcams either.

This argument against the technology department now is completely irrelevant.

The Crime Dog's picture
Submitted by The Crime Dog on Sun, 09/28/2008 - 8:24pm.

Do you know if the school system's current Dell lease INCLUDES the software?

The $500 computers your talking about come with Windows and that's it. Other software costs hundreds, but it's needed, as our students should be able to do more than word processing and email by the time they graduate!

You may be able to do your web browsing and email just fine on a stripped, ill-equipped machine. But the future of tomorrow (indeed today) is TECHNOLOGY! Web design should be a requiredment of all new graduates considering the Internet affects industries across the board. But you're too myopic and don't want to pay another $50 a year or so in sales tax.

By the way you generally can't load five-plus year old software onto new computers because the operating systems are incompatible.

Your cheap shot about Coach Belvedere was far below the belt. I had him for two classes at McIntosh in the early 90s and he was one of my favorite teachers; he cared about his students.

For you to point a finger at his computer "incident" tells us two things. Most of all it says you're afraid of losing your argument.

I'll agree with you that the board should've financed the schools over a longer time frame. That was a big mistake. At the same time, it doesn't make sense to finance items which have a reasonably short life span. Like computers.

Submitted by MacTheKnife on Sun, 09/28/2008 - 5:40pm.

You may wish to solve this problem while considering a few interesting facts.

1) The vast majority of the computers being returned are LEASED.

2) Dell will not sell the LEASED machines to the FCBOE - it's return them or extend the lease.

3) The software is actually as expensive, or more expensive, then the hardware and Dell, Joe's PC Haven, or Gezzus H Christ all have to pay Bill Gates, Adobe, or whomever sets the software prices for PC software.

All that being said - I would prefer to see cost cuts where the teachers and students don't reside - like at the county office level.

And yes, I favor the SPLOST since I have to sit in traffic behind all these 'out of county' cars leaving the Pavillion and the Avenue I would at least like to get a little money from them for shopping here.

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Fri, 09/26/2008 - 9:58am.

Mr. Pacquin, I've read your commentary for years and find myself agreeing with you well over ninety percent of the time.

Having said that, I find myself vehemently disagreeing with your analysis of computers in our school system.

Smarter people than you and I have determined that the optimal ratio of personal computers to students is approximately 3.5:1. Here in the technology backwater that is Fayette county, the current ratio is something like 4.5 or 5 to 1.

Computers are no longer a luxury in school systems, they are a staple. They can be integrated into curriculums and provide many benefits.

As an example, in Florida school systems, third grade children routinely do book report presentations using Powerpoint presentation software! The students WANT to give these presentations. Contrast that to our current system curriculum, where computers are not introduced until 5th grade, and are not (to my knowledge) integrated into the curriculum, i.e. they get the basic "this is a computer" spiel, which is rather insulting given that most students have and use computers at home.

One are that I will give Fayette County credit for is the policy adopted several years ago to no longer serve as the dumping ground for unwanted PCs. Accepting donated PCs seems good in theory, but in reality you have a nightmare of obsolete and unrepairable technology.

The school system standardized on the Dell platform 5 years ago and that was a prudent business decision. They opted for what appears to be a four year onsite repair warranty, again, this is good business.

The school system does NOT need to be in the PC repair business. We do not need to be constantly training and retraining technicians to handle basic repair issues that can be done cheaper and more efficiently by private business.

Where the school board has dropped the ball is in their failure to plan for the eventual replacement of obsolete technology. Rather than exercise fiscal prudence and set aside a reserve each year, they've pinned their hopes on a SPLOST to remedy the crisis of their own making.

As a whole, Fayette county does a terrible job with technology. Two board members, Key and Todd, are retirees with minimal appreciation for the benefits of technology. The other board members, Smola, Smith and Wright, talk a good game but give little more than lip service to technology. Those three realized many years ago that computers don't vote, and instead channel scarce resources into other areas (hiring extraneous personnel, for example) that directly benefit their re-election chances.

Accordingly, the technology infrastructure in Fayette schools has withered and decayed. It simply hasn't kept up with the times. Given the current makeup of the school board, I don't see technology in Fayette schools being anything other than an afterthought for the foreseeable future.

Submitted by Claude Y Paquin on Fri, 09/26/2008 - 12:15pm.

Your comments are appreciated. Please allow me this reply.

If our school system has 22,000 students and 5,700 computers, that's a ratio of 3.86, not too far from the 3.5 you indicate is optimal. (I suppose you meant one computer per 3.5 students.)

It is good, even essential, that our students be exposed to the use of computers, including learning how to type (keyboarding). But do these computers need to have a webcam? Do they have to cost $1000 each? Will the computers fall apart the day after the warranty runs out?

Considering how inexpensive computers have become, it ought to be easy to have spares enabling the school system to swap a good computer for a bad one whenever one goes down. (The bad one can then be sent away to be evaluated and either fixed at leisure or discarded.) The brand of computer also does not matter: it is the operating system (Microsoft Windows vs Apple OS) that needs to be uniform.

I have no wish to tell the school system how to run its business. The school board should not insult the intelligence of the public with a PowerPoint presentation telling us computers cost $1000 a piece when the Dell website and stores like Office Depot, Staples, etc. (even Wal-Mart) offer computers for one-third the price.

Submitted by boxwing on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 5:28pm.

I run a small business and I'll tell you that computers cost more than $500 when you add in the software and other accessories. I have found that these other costs roughly double the cost as compared to the actual hardware unit, so the the $1000 per computer figure is very realistic.

I knew the past Technology Office at FCBOE and he worked very hard to keep costs in line while providing good service to the system. Things have gotten much better over the last 5-6 years since the FCBOE adopted a more corporate approach to managing their technology costs.

The point that everyone is missing is that most of the items in the SPLOST are already in the upcoming budget plans. The listing of computers in the SPLOST has nothing to do with bad planning, but everything to do with the recent state budget cuts. The reduction in state funds is causing a shortfall in opertating funds that can't all be made up by raising the local millage rate. And since federal and state mandates (like classroom ratios and special ed requirements) don't allow for cuts in many areas (about 75% of the local FCBOE budget) that doesn't leave much room for the FCBOE to move around money.

The SPLOST gives the FCBOE a chance to gain additional funds to help maintain the programs that make our system special (but are not mandated) like fine arts programs. Since SPLOST can't be used for operating dollars, items like technology are being moved into the SPLOST to free up operating dollars to keep fine arts and other programs going in the schools. So while the SPLOST itself says you're voting on computers and such, you're really voting on the future of our fine arts, parapro, and other high value programs in our schools.

"So now you know the rest of the story".

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 6:56pm.

What is scaring people is that so many didn't vote in the summer and now regret it. Either on vacation, or never thought, given a choice, some could win.

Now they are very afraid. Someone wants more money, we don't have any thing to back it up except, "their word". Money is scarce. But worse, are the constant rumors, and that is all anyone knows, constant rumors that 2 years ago, some were told, either support SPLOST when it comes up...or we will send your kids to where you don't won't them to go!

I don't think that is true, but if it is? That would be very scary! And what would be some one's motive to do that to helpless families?

My thoughts are to distance myself from the BOE, and vote upon the given track record of some...

Will they spend this wisely?

Have they spent what we gave them wisely?

Why do we have schools in the middle of no where?

Who would gain from the development of land around these schools in the cow pastures?

Why was land not bought in PTC for their over crowding?

Biggest question in my mind..does the EGO of some? on the BOE get in the way of their judgment for the children?

Is leaving their name on a plaque and a legacy for their heirs...clouding their thoughts?

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 7:12pm.

I wonder how many ... experienced.. teachers put applications with the Fayette BOE wanted to come here, as opposed to someone's kids out of college with a shiney new degrees, that their only leg up was...they were someone in power?

Have we not gotten the pick of the litter because of this?

When DeCotis leaves, who will be in line? The best?..or.. of the most related? I don't know, and I'm sure they wouldn't do that, but does anyone have a guess?

Submitted by MYTMITE on Sun, 09/28/2008 - 1:37pm.

I may be wrong but Claude V. Paquin sounds very much like the above entities.

Cyclist's picture
Submitted by Cyclist on Sun, 09/28/2008 - 4:03pm.

I think I'm just going to call him "$". It's much easier.
Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Fri, 09/26/2008 - 12:48pm.

Mr. Paquin, thank you for the clarification of some of your points.

Part of my "day job", if you will, deals with the purchasing of personal computers in bulk. As such, I've got some detailed understanding of the various pricing schemes out there in the computer industry.

You are correct that a decent barebones computer should run around $400 to $500 or so dollars, even in bulk (user "mainframe computer guy" said this as well). I suspect with "bells and whistles" added (primarily software, NOT webcams), the "fully costed" price is around $600 to $650. (Blame it on Bill Gates!).

The devil is in the details, specifically maintenance. On-site, 2-day guaranteed repair typically runs $100 per unit per year, so on a four year lease that would easily make the total unit cost $1000 or so. This is a "set it and forget it" price that deals with hardware and labor. Now this seems a bit high, but remember these are kids that will be pounding the machines on a daily basis and kids simply break their "toys" from time to time. $100 per year maint cost does not strike me as terribly out of line.

Having said that, you probably could shop that to a lower cost local facility, but you'd need to find someone with a track record who has the resources (employees) and who is certified for a particular vendor. Computer repair facilities come and go with some frequency nowadays so I'm not sure the "lowest bidder" would necessarily save significant dollars should the contract need to be re-bid every year or so.

Your idea to have "hot spares" available for quick computer replacement has been tried in various organizations and basically found to be cost-inefficient (people store many personal files...reports, website links, etc) and there's a learning curve to restore/replace such files. For example, teacher's email is typically stored locally on a personal computer. Unless the email was backed up to a central server (and I'd bet a month's salary that Fayette does NOT), a teacher might lose all email correspondence with parents should her PC bite the dust.

You are also correct in saying that these computers will not magically fall apart the day after the warranty runs out. "Working without a safety net" is not a "best practice" for a school system, in my opinion.

Finally, you bring up an interesting point regarding ratios. The number of PCs I quoted was classroom computers directly accessible by students. I assume that there are a significant number of PCs dedicated to county staff that are "off-limits" to students. While I don't doubt the need for office staff to have computers, I wonder just how many units of non-classroom PCs we have. Maybe someone on Janet Smola's secret email list could find out (I'm not willing to spend $2000 to learn this).

Submitted by Claude Y Paquin on Sun, 09/28/2008 - 9:21am.

If Clark Howard, the WSB radio personality and consumer advocate, or Bill Husted, the sensible computer guru who writes a weekly column in the Sunday AJC newspaper, were to tell us that paying $1000 for using a computer for four years is reasonable, I’d accept it.

Even if it were so, the $1000 should be payable over four years. It is totally unreasonable for the school board to want the 2009 taxpayers to fork out $5.7 million right away so the 2010, 2011 and 2012 taxpayers may have a free ride. An annual cost of $1.425 million is easier to absorb than a full $5.7 million. Paying in advance for future services also has an element of danger, in case your service provider goes bankrupt.

We’re told these school computers take quite a pounding and thus need repairs.

The main parts of a computer that can take a pounding are the keyboard and the mouse. These two parts are extremely cheap to replace and are very very seldom repaired. You unplug the old one, toss it out, and plug in a new one.

Computers do not have a lot of moving parts. Essentially, a computer consists of a central processing unit (CPU), a monitor, a keyboard and a mouse.

Monitors are like TVs. They last a long time.

The CPU has essentially only two moving components that can fail. The main one is the hard drive, and the other is the power supply, which includes a motorized fan. After a few years they can wear out, and they are fairly easily replaced.

Most CPUs include a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive, and some of them have a plastic tray that slides in and out of the unit. In a school environment, one might expect that to be used only to load new software onto the computer, and supervisors, not students, should do that.

As all CPUs have USB 2.0 ports, a portable CD-ROM drive could be plugged in when needed to load new software from a CD-ROM disk. (For people who still have or use the old square floppies, there are portable floppy drives that can also be plugged in.)

When it comes to software, consumers are a lot more in the driver’s seat than they used to be. The entire Microsoft Office suite can be replaced, free, with the Open Office software. Or else, the older Microsoft Office software can be reloaded onto the new computers, as the purchase of the original software license has indefinite duration.

Software is different from computers. Some of it might be focused on certain school grades and subjects. Then it can be like textbooks and should not be part of the computer budget. Of course, computers that do the teaching improve teacher productivity and may lead to the need for fewer teachers or teacher aides.

Let me say a few words about our kids.

These are kids who use iPods, X-boxes, iPhones, Blackberries and what not. They are not stupid, and in fact they may be light-years ahead of many of the teachers. Depending on their age, many of them explain to their parents how things work.

When I have gone into our high schools, I have been distressed to see students who put their head down on their desk in an attempt to catch up on their sleep. There’s a reason for it. Many of them go to work in the evenings for fast-food chains and restaurants, trying to make a few bucks so they can support a car, get a bit of money for college, etc.

While they are being pressured by their employers to be “closers” and stay up late, they often struggle to keep their grades up and even, as I have said, to stay awake in class.

What I would like to see is an initiative by the school system to hire some of our computer-smart students to help out with computer training and maintenance. They could be paid, given only sensible hours to work, and provided work that would be much more meaningful than the fast-food stuff.

At $200 a year for computer warranty work, we’re talking $1.14 million a year for 5700 computers. I am positive there is not $1.14 million’s worth of computer warranty work a year to be done in our schools.

These students would soon teach their teachers and junior students how to use a $20 flash drive (which fits on a keychain) to store or back-up their files, so they could use any school computer. That would also make it possible to swap a good computer for a bad one in the unlikely event of a breakdown.

Of course, the people who supply computers to school systems and cultivate the educators’ helplessness to preserve their own jobs won’t like my suggestion, and neither will the fast-food operators. But the kids would be better off, and the taxpayers would be better off. And it’s for them I speak.

bad_ptc's picture
Submitted by bad_ptc on Sun, 09/28/2008 - 11:22am.

No wonder taxpayers are having to shell out $700B

“An annual cost of $1.425 million is easier to absorb than a full $5.7 million.”

YES, let’s put this on our credit card so we can pay it off over four years. Did you happen to take into account that now on top of the actual cost of $5.7M there will be interest to pay? Something in the neighborhood of 5% - 10%? It depends on many factors including the bond rating of the school system in question.

Talk about being light years behind. “As all CPUs have USB 2.0 ports, a portable CD-ROM drive could be plugged in when needed to load new software from a CD-ROM disk. (For people who still have or use the old square floppies, there are portable floppy drives that can also be plugged in.)”

How about just loading all software, that’s not the operating system, on the server and have this thing called the “NETWORK” allow access to it as needed? One copy, one configuration, no CDROMs.

You can easily have multiple configurations based on the user access level via a utility called a “Policy”. As far as floppies are concerned, NOT. You have all computers come with what we in the industry call a “core” image and everything else is done via the network. All software “maintenance” is now done one place and one place only, on the server, period.

As far as hiring students to do the maintenance is a nice thought if it weren’t for the fact that doing so could VIOD several of the hardware and software warranties. Again, like I tell my child, “Do your homework” before you go out to play.

As far as “OPEN OFFICE” is concerned, forget it. It’s better than it used to be but it’s still “JUNK”! Please, do just a little research before you go off the deep end. Unless you plan on having a team of software/application developers on call 24/7 stick with MS Office 2008 and call is done.

“While they are being pressured by their employers to be “closers” and stay up late, they often struggle to keep their grades up and even, as I have said, to stay awake in class.”
I would suggest you and the parents of any child consult the GA Child Labor laws if you think a minor is being abused in their job.

“Of course, the people who supply computers to school systems and cultivate the educators’ helplessness to preserve their own jobs won’t like my suggestion, and neither will the fast-food operators. But the kids would be better off, and the taxpayers would be better off. And it’s for them I speak.”

Based on your lack of expert knowledge in the areas of economics, computer system architecture and Child Labor law I would prefer that you not attempt to “speak” for me, my child, the FCBoE or anyone else except yourself in the future.

Your heart might be the right place, but it’s your brain that concerns me.

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Sun, 09/28/2008 - 11:42am.

bad_ptc, I agree with you on one point and disagree on another.

Regarding maintenance contracts for PCs, virtually all vendors have an imputed cost built in and can and do accept maintenance contracts paid seperately on a yearly basis. When they get an unsophisticated school system that offers to pay all maintenance up front, they don't discount, they just smile and say thank you. From what I have been able to read, based on some sketchy reporting back in 2003, that's exactly what Dell did. Paying in advance for something that could be paid for on time payments with no interest is not good fiscal stewardship. And history will repeat itself if the SPLOST passes.

Secondly, in theory your core image process would be an excellent solution for the school board. In reality it absolutely will not work. From what I've been able to ascertain, the school system's network bandwidth has not been upgraded since 1998. There is absolutely no bandwidth to do this! The school system does NOT have an infrastructure to support a decent LAN, much less a MAN (metropolitan area network, i.e. school-to-central-office) to do this. In a perfect world, you'd get Norton Ghost and slap an image on each PC via the MAN. In 2003, the bond referendum had a provision to upgrade the pathetic network to do just that.

Unfortunately, networks don't vote. Smola and Smith re-appropriated that money for other pet projects (I believe the McIntosh auditorium was one). Interestingly, when they WANT to re-appropriate money (network improvements), Smola and Smith do so without hesitation. When they don't want to re-appropriate money (i.e. NOT build unneeded schools), Smola and Smith whine about how their hands are tied and they HAVE to spend that money and CANNOT re-appropriate it. Put another way, we COULD have upgraded the network easily...and paid for new computers...with money that instead went to fund the unneeded Fayette loop school. But that would have made Smola and Smiths real constituents (developers) unhappy.

What was truly disgusting was watching Smola, Decotis and comptroller Laura Brock smirking about NOT spending money to upgrade technology at the July 28th SPLOST begfest. "Tee hee, we could have, but we didn't! Tee hee"

From what I've learned, the school system bandwidth chokes on email backup and traffic, a huge red flag that indicates they probably have something like 56K lines between schools (essentially dial-up speeds, shades of 1996!) That's pathetic in this day and age.

NUK_1's picture
Submitted by NUK_1 on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 6:32pm.

Sniffles is indeed correct in that the biggest problem facing the school system from a technology standpoint is a 10 year old infrastructure that isn't what I would call a "network." I wouldn't even say that 10 years ago it was worth much either. Technology is the bastard stepchild in the BOE that has had far too much put off for far too long. Now the price has to be paid. Right now, the alleged network cuts way down on options and the BOE HAS to basically run and administer machines where they sit. I don't care how many staff people you have, that's a very inefficient use of resources and having a decent service level is next to impossible.

As far as $1000 computers and whether or not to get Dell service contracts, you can make an argument for either side. In order to make it worthwhile to pay for hardware/software support, you have to negotiate tough with companies like Dell. If you don't, they will screw you in a second. Like most products, extended warranties can be a bad thing if you're not very careful.

As far as a good PC costing $1000 after being loaded with software, I question where anyone who thinks that's a good figure is living. That's too much, period. You can get educational licensing from MS at a third of the cost of standard retail. You have volume licensing opportunities with MS and any other software you need. Even with a flat screen monitor and extended support, $1000 is too high for a school workstation PC. Still, it's a nice round figure for a budget:)

If you want Dell to really discount their price on PC's with Gold service, just tell them that you are talking with HP and they look very good. Dell has a lot more margin to play with than most people realize, even those who have been in IT for years. Presently, they will go rock-bottom on pricing to keep HP from establishing any kind of foothold in an organization. The cheaper solution is to buy clones and no service, but I don't think that is feasible at all right now with the BOE setup. They need to stay very standardized because they don't have the network or the personnel to do otherwise.

Submitted by Bonkers on Tue, 09/30/2008 - 4:13am.

Sounds as if you are instructing School Administrative staff in how to do business!
That won't fly!
For a buyer to tell 2-3 computer makers to pre-install all of the software needed by the school system, and to do it for free since they would be letting the company leave their name on the computer, is not heard of in school business dealings!
Chances are the software would be donated anyway if they could just tell the student, "see how good this software is?"

Also send copies to reputable organizations to see if they want to donate the computers and a service plan as a trade for students and others being made aware of the gift.

My, my, wouldn't that be something NEW in business?

mapleleaf's picture
Submitted by mapleleaf on Sun, 09/28/2008 - 4:33pm.

Why don't you cut Mr. Paquin some slack here.

Isn't there a difference between computers and servers? Don't servers use workstations? Didn't the school board talk about replacing computers? At $1000 a piece? Until you two chimed in, the discussion seemed to be about computers and the reasonableness of the school board's claim it is in desperate need of $5.7 million right away.

bad_ptc's picture
Submitted by bad_ptc on Sun, 09/28/2008 - 5:08pm.

Mapleleaf, your another another example of someone speaking on a subject who doesn’t know what there talking about.

If you’re going to spend the money to do, do it right the first time.

Most large corporations, Federal government agencies and recently a good number of medium and small businesses are going the route of a single server controlling everything for the very reasons I mentioned, maintenance/support costs.

“Seat Management” is nothing new and for all intents and purposes it’s the only way a “Systems Staff” can manage resources effectively with a system as spread out as the one in the FCBoE.

Not having the background in how these things need to be done, as exampled with Mr. Paquin’s suggestions, is exactly why the FCBoE finds itself in this position now. Apparently the FCBoE doesn’t know any better either.

The last thing we need is the FCBoE adopting suggestions like Mr. Paquin’s because they themselves are so far behind the times they don’t have a clue as to how to accomplish this task.

Yes, there is a difference between servers and computers. There is also something referred to as “client processing”

In the scenario I described the client, in this case the computer, is forced to download the necessary software when a user logs on, at least once. This method places the burden on the infrastructure/switching part of the network.

Even easier, only the executable is downloaded into the computers memory and all the configuration and support files stay on the server. This method acts more like a traffic cop allowing or disallowing certain things from happening.

In both cases the “processing” when you tell Excel to sum a column of numbers, is done on the local processor and NOT the server.

With a “workstation”, dumb terminal, ALL the processing is done at the server level. That’s why they’re call DUMB.

In any event, the goal is to provide the tools to the students with the least maintenance cost per unit.

Submitted by bowser on Sun, 09/28/2008 - 10:26am.

I'm curious. Did you ever actually talk to anyone at the school system about the computer issue and why they propose to handle it the way they do?

Submitted by Nitpickers on Wed, 09/24/2008 - 3:34pm.

What we have here is a failure to communicate as was told to Paul Newman once.

The school system wants computers for everyone since it is the "thing" to do.

They only want computers that are under warranty since they can't call every day and ask how to operate them if the warranty is expired!
They don't bother to train anyone there to "fix" them

Some counties do hire one or two people as head of "technology" to do just that---operate them or "fix" them.
But they pay $15 dollars an hour and get $15 dollars an hours worth of efficiency trying to keep 1500 computers running!

In other words, they don't know what they are doing!

Submitted by Nitpickers on Wed, 09/24/2008 - 3:32pm.

What we have here is a failure to communicate as was told to Paul Newman once.

The school system wants computers for everyone since it is the "thing" to do.

They only want computers that are under warranty since they can't call every day and ask how to operate them if the warranty is expired!
They don't bother to train anyone there to "fix" them

Some counties do hire one or two people as head of "technology" to do just that---operate them or "fix" them.
But they pay $15 dollars an hour and get $15 dollars an hours worth of efficiency trying to keep 1500 computers running!

In other words, they don't know what they are doing!

Submitted by Claude Y Paquin on Tue, 09/23/2008 - 3:57pm.

As I stated last week, there has to be a practical limit to the length of my articles, out of respect for the readers’ time and not to use up newsprint unnecessarily. For readers who prefer more complete explanations and have the patience to read them, I provide this footnote in electronic form.

In my main article, I have wondered aloud about what these 5,700 computers were all used for.

At the risk of sounding nasty, I might remind readers that in a June 4, 2003 article in The Citizen, we could read about a teacher and wrestling coach for Sandy Creek High School who had used his classroom computer to send a picture of a so-called sex act over the internet to two women. One woman called the cops, who found the teacher behind a locked door providing a performance before his computer webcam.

I don’t mind it all that much when the school system brags about its great teachers, as it does in its SPLOST presentation, but it is obvious that once in a while our students get a turkey.

One question fairly comes to mind about the incident I just brought up. Why do the schools’ computers have webcams? Are these necessary, or even really useful? Or are the features our school computers come with the result of gadget-loving extravagance?

I also commented on the extremely nasty nature of the potential cuts presented to the parents in old PowerPoint slides 10 to 16, including the bizarre suggestion of removing one-half of an assistant principal in each elementary school.

What the public is not told is how many assistant principals all these schools have, to start with, and the role of each one. The same is true for art and music teachers, and computer lab instructors.

The number of instructors has to depend on the number of students who are taking the relevant courses. There is undoubtedly an acceptable range for the student-teacher ratio for every course. Especially with computers, some senior students could possibly be enlisted to assist the more junior students as a sort of community service. Helping other people learn reinforces your own knowledge and skills.

I get reports of mothers being frightened to death by the budget cut threats made by the school system, which operates in the shadows at PTO meetings, away from the press and the general citizenry.

It might be wise for these mothers to understand that once you give in to blackmail of any type, you’re more likely to be blackmailed in the future. It would be a bit like telling your child who is confronted by bullies at school, who want to relieve him of his lunch money, that he should give in.

The strength of public opinion will come from our being enlightened about what the school board is attempting to do, and united in our response. Giving in is never the answer.

You still want to know what happened to that Sandy Creek teacher I was talking about? He got fired, of course. Then he pleaded guilty to public indecency and distributing obscene materials, and he was sentenced to 15 days in jail, plus 60 days of house arrest, three years probation and a $3,000 fine. I doubt he still teaches anywhere. The school board does not brag about him in any of its slides.

Submitted by parentforsplost on Fri, 09/26/2008 - 9:02am.

I know why this post is written as a footnote and not part of the article because I doubt the Citizen would have put into print your insinuations that our teachers are looking at porn during on their jobs. You mention "at the risk of sounding nasty", that is nasty and insulting. If you REALLY need a lesson of what our students are doing with 5,700 computers please feel free to walk down the hallways of any school. You obviously know how to use a computer because you post insulting comments here regularly. You were not in school obviously when the computer age began. But our students now have access to a world we could never have imagined. Students can ask a question in class and teachers can actually get an answer in a timely manner by researching something on the internet. With the introduction of LCD projectors and the internet in classrooms they can watch important political and social events happening in real time instead of just reading about it in a book. Do I need to go on? Why shouldn't the school board spend money to update technology when other school systems do also? Do we not want our students to have access to reasonably new technology? Schools in other counties have had LCD projectors for years and now some of our high school classrooms are just getting them. It is a competitive world out there now. Before you make anymore comments like you did in your last post, maybe you should actually know what you are talking about.

Submitted by Claude Y Paquin on Fri, 09/26/2008 - 12:34pm.

Smile, you're on Candid Camera!

Parentforsplost, do you know what a webcam is?

It is a little gizmo attached to a computer monitor which takes your picture and can send it to others over the internet.

This particular teacher was performing a sex act. He wasn't looking at anything, he was having some women look at him.

This is so gross you couldn't figure it out, could you?

What I was wondering about was why the school system equipped some of its computers with webcams. We taxpayers pay for these webcams. What need is there for webcams on school computers?

You tell me.

Submitted by PeteSake on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 6:53am.

of not knowing what he's talking about. Claude Paquin, do you know what a lie is?

Again, the school system doesn't equip computers with webcams. We taxpayers didn't pay for it. There is no need for webcams on school computers.

This gross event is ancient history and you are trying to use it to justify a false argument today.

That's just gross.

By the way, I got this information with a simple phone call. No Open Records Request required. Why don't you try it before spewing your misinformation over the internet?

Submitted by Missy-Sippy on Mon, 09/29/2008 - 3:55pm.

Is there any truth to the story that's been going around for several years about two fcboe members engaging in said acts. And as a result, one of them resigned from the board and moved out of town?

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