I first read a Tweet from @wfryer about his blog post “Outsourcing school district IT staff” and clicked on the link right away. From the title it sounded like Wes was in favor of this (he wasn’t), and my blood pressure rose quite rapidly.

I started writing this before I read the entire blog post, and now realize that they were hiring the IT people back through an outside vendor. Blood pressure dropping slightly 🙂 I don’t know how the school can save money – maybe they can save some by not paying benefits – but in our area small schools pay around $65 per hour for outside tech support and we can hire good people for a lot less than that.

My point is this – we do things a lot differently in a school district than the business world does. When I hire a new tech, it usually takes them a year to get up to speed on all the software we support, our network infrastructure, how we image new computers, back up teachers data, etc.

Years ago I had an open forum where local business leaders and their IT directors were present. One of the IT people talked about how efficient their operation was, how secure they made all their workstations. In their environment each computer is used by one person, and that computer just has the software on it that person needs.

I asked him if he would be willing to let us send one classroom of students over each period during one school day. The first hour it would be a class of 9th graders learning how to do MS Word. The next hour we would send over a class of 10th graders learning Excel. The 3rd hour it would be a classroom of students learning DreamWeaver – ooohh – you don’t have that on your computers? Well we need it by 3rd hour tomorrow! The 4th hour would be students using the web, and they need to get to YouTube and Facebook. You have that blocked? Can’t you bypass your filter for this class? We will need Adobe InDesign for the 5th hour class, a video editing program for 6th hour, and Photoshop Elements for 7th hour.

You can’t do that? We do that every day, for 6,800 students in 19 buildings….

I have had the option to hire outside tech support from vendors for our busy season (July-September) but have declined because it would take way too much time to get them up to speed on how we do our setups, etc.

So how can a school or district outsource this support to a vendor?

Many non-educators, in charge of technology and networks, forget their purpose – to help educate the students! They are more worried about network security, filtering, viruses, etc. than they are providing a good educational experience for the students in the school. I compare their kind of support to that of a custodian who doesn’t want the kids to come back in the fall because they will mess up all the floors and rooms he/she spent he summer cleaning. They forget the purpose of the school!

I feel that you need to attract good people for your tech support staff, people who understand that the purpose of what we do is to provide learning opportunities to our students, pay them a fair wage, provide them with the tools they need to do their job, and give them ownership in what they do for our district.

I could go on and on, but I feel my blood pressure starting to drop.