After outsourcing, Greencastle-Antrim School Board adds two technology positions

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Dwight Bard, Director of Technology, explained the capabilities of the servers handling the growing number of devices in the school system.

After an hour of discussion, the Greencastle-Antrim School Board made a decision on whether to add two staff members to the technology department outsourced to Questeq, Inc. The company is in its second year handling all issues that arise from teachers and staff on any technology devices.

Business manager Jolinda Wilson said the move to a contracted basis saved the district $50,000 a year. Chief Educational Officer Bob Crider explained why the request, which would cost $125,000 per year, was coming before the board.

In the past, technology director Bill Baker worked wonders “with the Band Aid and gum approach to keep things running”, he said in praise. Each year the administration would ask for $250,000 in the budget to keep up with the demands of technology, but it kept getting cut, he said. “We need a plan now. We can’t continue to limp along.”

Crider compared past, present and future needs. The school district used to have Windows XP, open Wifi which could easily be hacked, a poor email system, 25 servers, 970 desktop computers, and 330 laptops, among other features.

This school year, under Questeq and new management, the district uses Office 365 email, a secure wireless system, 45 servers, 1,500 desktops, and 425 laptops. The number of other devices also jumped significantly. The bandwidth was increased from 50 to 100 mbps. Even so, “There are certain days the bandwidth will go off the charts,” said Crider.

In the future, he hoped to have students and staff benefit from 55 servers, web-based MAP testing, more widespread use of technology for teacher training and student assessments, and even more devices, simply to keep abreast of where the world was moving.

Today, the technology department, under the direction of Dwight Bard, takes care of 3,100 devices, of which 1,006 came through the Keystone to Opportunity grant. The tech department had four people who had worked on 5,010 tickets in the past year, including 900 since Aug. 25 of this year. They had closed 832 of those orders.

Bard was prepared to hire an infrastructure engineer and a desktop technician. He had also prioritized the ticket system to hopefully improve efficiency. He also wanted to assign one specialist to each campus building.

Analyzing how things had gone thus far, Crider said he could not yet recommend Questeq to others. There had been some overturn of staff during the year. However, G-ASD was part of the problem, he continued, since it had changed its technology philosophy, and not been on top of some equipment over the past year.

“We’re better off than we were before, though,” he said.

Board president Brian Hissong said, “This is a very serious situation that needs addressed. It is the future of education.”

Jim Winslow asked for some sort of metric to measure quantifiable success by Questeq.

Tracy Baer  added, “This is a tough decision, but we’ve made a commitment to help our kids. This is one of them.”

A motion to approve hiring two more people for one year passed 5-2. Melinda Cordell, Lura Hanks, Linda Farley, Winslow and Hissong were in favor. Eric Holtzman and Baer were opposed.

Other business

The board voted unanimously to ask the state to extend the PlanCon A/B project for one year. Hoover explained that the Pennsylvania Department of Education needed to know within 30 days what the status of the building project was for the middle and high schools. If G-ASD did not initiate some activity on the project, the state would kick them out of the pipeline for reimbursement anyway, Hoover said.

Hanks suggested asking for another extension and to say renovations were stalled because of state funding. “Leave it in their court,” she said.

Dr. Robert Wennick, DDS, was approved as district dentist.