The Marblehead School District’s report on the state of its computer infrastructure should be required reading for school officials across the North Shore as an example of how quickly technology can become outdated and how expensive it can be to catch up.
The report, put together by a blue-ribbon panel of town and school officials and IT experts and presented to the School Committee last month, outlines the problem in stark terms:
“The Marblehead Public School technology systems are in very poor shape. We lack appropriate funding and staffing to address a myriad of needs,” the report’s executive summary reads. “Our computer inventory and servers are outdated, we lack proper backup systems, the network infrastructure is mostly past useful life span, and we lack proper wireless networking systems.”
The report continues, “Significant increases in funding and staffing are needed to address the needs of our current technology systems, as well as to expand our systems to address the needs of the school district. A level-funded budget will address only a small fraction of the needs. Modest increases would help address the most critical areas but leave important areas of need unaddressed. Additional operations funding is needed, as well as fundraising and grant opportunities.”
Meeting these needs would require between $1.2 million and $1.4 million a year for the next five years, according to Ken Lord, the district’s technology supervisor. That’s about $700,000 to $850,000 a year over the schools’ existing technology budget.
There’s no question that an upgrade is needed. More than 60 percent of the district’s desktop and laptop computers, for example, are more than 8 years old. “Student access to technology is poor and varies from building to building,” according to the report. “Schools that do have access for students to use computers do not have sufficient numbers or the equipment is so outdated that the students and faculty often give up on using them. Students and staff that do use the technology are continually frustrated by the slow speed and lack of reliability.”