Mac Lab Report

Show Me the Savings: A Request for the Sarasota School Board

- 2004.12.17

Dear Dr. Kleinlein and members of the Sarasota school board,

Don't you and the rest of the board wish this whole Mac vs. PC thing would just go away so you could get on with the real business of the school board? What a waste of time!

I have only one simple, nonpartisan question you can ask to settle this thing once and for all. Please direct your IT staff to prepare a specific report predicting how much money will be saved and how many positions will be eliminated by switching to a single platform. A simple question; it is the entire basis for this silly argument which causes you to find your district featured in the newspapers and on dozens (yes dozens) of web sites discussing the issue.

Make sure you have some folks, like Doug Gilliliand, look over this report to make sure its assumptions are reasonable. Perhaps Mr. Brooks at the local paper could take a look as well. As a reporter I am sure he would be interested in any public documents you have regarding this matter. I would like to have a copy myself, as far as that goes, because in all of my research on matters like these I have yet to see a copy of any firm prediction from anyone, anywhere, that actually details the savings such a single platform switch actually engenders.

I have students working on many exciting science projects, such as using giant telescopes in Arizona, taking pictures with a space telescope, and doing original research on pictures taken of Mars by space probes. I use Macs in my classroom, and, like your district, our district has decided to stop purchasing Macs in order to make IT costs go down and make it easier to manage the district's computers. Currently our entire IT staff is working to reformat every PC on campus due to a worm introduced to the network by a student. This work will take several months. It will likely require overtime and possibly additional staffing or work orders will begin to pile up and not be fulfilled.

If your district is like mine, you will be surprised to find that no such estimate actually exists prior to your asking for it; it will be forthcoming when you ask (if you're lucky), but it will not include staff reductions in the immediate future, which of course is the only way to bring real savings to the district. You know and I know that 90% of any district's budget is personnel. This isn't about market share, as Mr. Brooks thinks; it's about money, isn't it? What's the bottom line here?

A lack of any such report containing documented savings can only lead you to the inevitable conclusion that it is somehow the superintendent who is having an unreasonable preference for a platform, whereas Mr. Gilliliand publicly supports having a multiplatform environment and has nothing against Windows machines per se. It's possible I'm wrong about this, but I don't think it is likely.

Until you have this information, you cannot reasonably be expected to balance the cost savings vs. the educational price you will pay by alienating and demoralizing your most expert teachers.

Isn't it the function of school leadership to enable teachers and students to achieve greatness and then remove obstacles to this success? Forcing your expert teachers to waste time on this issue takes away from your students. Help them by resolving this once and for all.

I am not writing at the request of Mr. Gilliliand; I've yet to correspond with him directly. I'm simply trying to help you make this all go away. It will, I think, if you follow my advice. Think of the positive press you will gain by making your solution a model for other districts around the country to follow. You're not the only district to face this annoying problem. Believe me, I know.

Sincerely,
Jeff Adkins
Antioch Unified School District Teacher of the Year
Antioch, California
http://www.lowendmac.com/lab/

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is a longtime Mac user. He was using digital sensors on Apple II computers in the 1980's and has networked computers in his classroom since before the internet existed. In 2006 he was selected at the California Computer Using Educator's teacher of the year. His students have used NASA space probes and regularly participate in piloting new materials for NASA. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and scientific papers. He currently teaches astronomy and physics in California, where he lives with his twin sons, Jony and Ben.< And there's still a Mac G3 in his classroom which finds occasional use.

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