Monday, March 23, 2015

New Joplin High School laptops to cost $2 million

It was the feel good story of 2011- the donation of $1 million from the United Arab Emirates for the purchase of laptops for every Joplin High School student.

The UAE's generous contribution was matched by a half million dollars from other sources.

The time has come to replace those computers and this time there is no UAE, no matching contributions- just weary Joplin R-8 taxpayers, who will spend $2 million for new computers.

The proposal is on the consent agenda for the 6 p.m. Tuesday meeting of the R-8 Board of Education, meaning it will not be discussed unless it is brought up by a board member.

The documentation provided to the board says the exact cost will be $1,997,199, a lease-purchase arrangement, which will find the district paying $499,086.05 for each of the next three years for the 2,300 laptops.

Only one bid was taken, according to the documentation because "deployment and management infrastructure is Apple device specific. If we change out devices, we will have to redo internal infrastructure bringing significant additional cost. For students and teaching staff, we are an Apple user district."

The request is signed by Superintendent C. J. Huff, Executive Director of Secondary Instruction Jason Cravens, and Director of Technology Eric Pitcher.


Anonymous said...

How are they paying for this--another loan? Great. Just great.

Anonymous said...

A few weeks ago staff had a survey about learning and the computers. Some of the questions were loaded so that it was difficult to answer honestly, like "Do you believe computers can assist with learning?" That kind of thing. Of course they can. There was nothing about "Do you think they should be the only real tool provided for your students in the classroom?" I expect that survey and its skewed results will be used to justify this expense. I'm guessing not many staff members took that survey, either. That requires more trust than most of us have in district administration.

Anonymous said...

Well, folks, there went our raises again for next year. I bet Huff and Co all get hefty raises again though.

Anonymous said...

When we got the computers the first time they predicted they would last five years for a million dollar investment. They last four years, barely. Now we rent/lease for three years for two million dollars, So, I suppose in two years that means we will pay three million dollars for a projected two years. Yeah, this makes a hell of a lot of sense. They told us textbooks wear out in five years, so the computers were a better deal. Another thing they got wrong. But hey, it's all...

For our kids

Anonymous said...

There was a time when ALL stakeholders were involved in the education of the community's children. Curriculum was shared with and written with the parents as well as the teachers and the students. Now no one has a voice, unless enough people complain, and then CJ will get his pet "citizens committee" to take a look at whatever he wants them to see and gets his rubber stamp.

I don't want my kids to have those computers. I want good old fashioned books and some reality restored. But no one cares what the patrons want. They've got our tax dollars, regardless.

Anonymous said...

You could switch to Chrome Book that would be at least half the cost. They would use internet and Google (the favorite instructor at JHS) apps. This would not force an infrastructure change.

Anonymous said...

If memory serves me correctly, UAE made no stipulation that their donation be spent on laptops. It was simply to be used for education purposes.

I wonder how many computer labs and textbooks could be purchased for $2 million.

Anonymous said...

At the end of three years three year old laptops will probably be worth less than zero.

Anonymous said...

A few points to make from someone in the general field of computers, although not a laptop user:

A lease-purchase, which is indeed a type of a loan, is obviously more expensive than a simple purchase. Going forward, the district's unnecessary cash crunch is going to continue to compound unless and until sanity prevails or the state takes over the district.

A 3 year old computer or laptop may be valued at around zero dollars because that's the way the market works, but its real value in terms of being able to do useful stuff is a lot higher.

Laptops, suffer from physical wear and tear, and Apple no longer really cares about the operating system for the Macintosh, OS X, which is quite different from iOS, which runs on their now major products like smart phones and tablets. So in practice (don't believe the official minimum requirements), Apple might require more capable computers as new versions of OS X are released. And if the district is buying more software to put on them that could increase hardware requirements. But I'd guess wear and tear is the primary lifetime issue.

I too thought about Chromebooks. Schools buy more of them than any other type of customer, it's a really good concept for them, but they were too new for the district to adopt them, the first just starting to ship a few weeks after the tornado, with no one knowing if or what sort of success they'd be.

The district is now to a great degree locked into Apple because switching would cost a lot of money: a lot of infrastructure would have to be modified at best, any unbundled programs running on the laptops would be repurchased, there would be a lot of retraining and productivity lost during the change, and unless the laptops are being used with the Google Chrome browser there might be web sites or web applications that would cause problems. Stuff like whatever internal "intranet" applications the district provides (and if they're not providing any, they're not getting the best use out of the laptops).

And there's the very real possibility Google will end their Chromebook project, perhaps will be forced to if it eventually fails in the marketplace. Even given Apple's flakiness with OS X and Macintosh computers, given all we know they're probably a better long term bet.

I'm also told that Apple's build quality is high, so cheap Chrome Books might not be a bargain, they likely wear out faster, and there are lots of costs involved when a computer fails and has to be replaced.

Anonymous said...

Ah, forgot one other factor: in terms of talent pools, local or global, Microsoft >> Apple >> Chromebook. There are very good reasons to avoid the Microsoft ecosystem, including overall costs, so it's possible at Joplin's relatively small scale Apple is a happy medium.