PPS’s IT Dilemma

: Highlighted above is the proposed, approved, and adopted Technology Services budget for the 2018-2019 school year. This budget will go under review in February and March 2019. Photo Credit: Photo via PPS

“Some teachers spend upwards of 20 minutes of class time trying to work the projectors,” says an anonymous Franklin student. “Some even resort to asking students, which I think inhibits the students’ time in the classroom to learn and can eventually become a distraction. Some even blame other teachers, which creates a hostile work environment.” Scenes like this student describes are a result of vacancies within the PPS Internet Technology department. Tech specialists, who were responsible for solving on site issues within the schools, were once implemented, but with recent budget cuts, these specialists are no longer a part of the current model. IT received budget cuts two years in a row, resulting in the removal of ten positions during the 2016-2017 school year and another seven during the 2017-2018 school year, currently there are nine vacancies.

“We often try to compare ourselves to Beaverton due to the similarities in enrollment,” says Marita Ingalsbe, the Director or Client Services at IT. In their effort to better organize and develop their new model, they have hired a new Deputy superintendent named Claire Hertz from Beaverton. “She brings information on what Beaverton has and their current model and what it should be,” says Ingalsbe. She hopes that with a background in state funding, Hertz will be able to direct more funding towards the IT department.

“We used to have all of our IT support people located in the main office, we moved them into the schools, but they were also tasked with supporting other schools in the geographical region,” says Ingalsbe. This model does not often enable the tech specialist to efficiently support the amount of schools they are tasked with. Franklin’s tech specialist is not only tasked with Franklin, but also Atkinson, Bridger, Creston, Glencoe, Laurelhurst, Lewis, Mt. Tabor, the Pioneer Program, Richmond, and Woodstock. This model is likely a reflection of the proposed budget for the 2018-2019 school year. The proposed increase totaled to 12,481,799 million dollars, and the adopted budget was $12,602,736. However the IT Budget Specialist said that there was $747,744 included in the published budget for the Records Management Department, as that department was planned to be moved into the IT Department. That has not happened, and the actual IT Department budget for the 2018-2019 school year did not increase and is estimated to be $11,854,992. That results in a $33,012 deficit.

“We did not have major problems with this model until this year, when we lost seven more positions. We are really struggling to provide the level of support to those who need it,” said Ingalsbe. Work like servicing laptops and Chromebooks would ideally be done over the summer, but due to the strain of these vacancies, schools like Franklin are affected. “For example, the journalism laptops have been updated to Windows 10 and have Adobe Creative Cloud Suite software installed. Our technician found that there were Windows performance issues resulting from multiple students being logged in at a time and the computers not being shut down correctly. We plan to provide a reminder notice for students to log off when done, and also that the computers should be rebooted weekly using the proper shutdown or restart function and not pressing the power button on the PC,” advises Ingalsbe.

“We are trying to fill these positions as fast as we can, but the economy for IT positions is very good right now and people keep leaving.” There are a lot of jobs available within the IT field right now. There are also plenty of people who want to help with the district and service the schools, but many of them need training. This results in a heavy workload and a slower turnout of trained tech specialists. “Last year a specialist was placed in the school that also serviced the feeder schools. He was very overworked, and he had too much on his plate having to follow this model,” says Sandra Childs, Franklin’s Librarian and Media Specialist.

The next model for the district will be discussed during February and March, where IT proposes their new budget. “Every year we ask for more than we actually get, but we always try again. We are planning to ask for site based technology specialists. Which is believed to be essential in providing support for new buildings like Franklin’s,” says Ingalsbe. These site-based tech specialists are a solution to many issues proposed by Franklin staff. “When I was the technology coordinator, years ago, IT was much more supportive, available, and staffed. We also had a full time IT employee that we hired and worked only for us,” says Childs. “Over the years with the budget cuts, and the district’s decision to withdraw site-based specialists from the schools, [things] have been extremely challenging,” says Childs.

Another issue with the lack of staffing is the IT service desk, which has been accused of not taking the necessary time to accurately assess the IT tickets—a system designed to organize and assess customer complaints and requests. “Because they are overwhelmed we think that they are trying to get rid of as many tickets as possible. I don’t think they intend to be insensitive or rude, I don’t think they know what it is like to be in the schools,” says Childs. In June, a tech meeting was held with the IT department to discuss service issues. The perceived inference made by the IT representatives present was that Adam Souza, one of Franklin’s video production instructors and former IT staff at Franklin, could take care of any on site issues. “I thought that inference was offensive, because they are not understanding what he is doing and tasked with, what we need are solutions,” says Childs.

Ingalsbe encourages Franklin staff who have reported or have specific examples of IT service issues or related grievances that were not satisfactorily resolves to contact her at ingalsbe@pps.net or send general feedback to itfeedback@pps.net. IT plans to resolve these deficits and provide site-based tech specialists with an improved budget proposed in February and March during the new budget year.

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