Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A Required Course for School Leaders

I was giving a workshop for administrators about technology costs in 2002, and had just outlined a ballpark figure for core technology (hardware, networks and personnel.) I still remember John, a rural superintendent, who replied with visible disbelief when I said it would take 3.5 % of his operating budget, plus hardware. "Are you saying that I would need to spend $350,000 per year out of my $10,000,000 budget for technology?" For John, this was an impossible figure, yet it was the national average in at least one study, (and it did not include one-one laptops.) "It's just an operating budget," I said. "It doesn't include construction, facilities, capitol projects, etc.)"
"We don't have any of that now," he said, "the teachers do it." John was experiencing something the TCO people call " indirect costs."
For years, we have discussed the idea of having a university course in technology required for Maine certification (like school law, school finance, and exceptionality) which would facilitate conversations like the one above.
The enGauge Framework on funding:
• Reprioritize budgets to ensure ongoing, sustainable funding for wide-scale initiatives.
• Analyze the total cost of ownership and programmatic implementation to predict costs into the future.
• Provide funding for targeted R&D as well as for basic technology infrastructure, administrative and management-software solutions, e-mail and file transfer communications, and proven learning solutions for entire student populations.
The National Standards for administrators
Section IV C: "allocate financial and human resources to ensure complete and sustained implementation of the technology plan."
These bullets say a lot, but they don't say how much. Superintendents want to know how much. I remember saying to Michael, a super from midcoast Maine, that core technology would have to grow to 2% in the budget if he wanted to deploy the Internet to every desktop. "You wanna bet?" he answered with a smile. It's his budget, you see. He later became famous for sayng that technology was a "black hole" in the budget.
The Gartner TCO tool offers a few case histories of different sized districts, so there is a chance to get a picture of actual costs. And it's one good analytical piece; a way of trying to get at your own costs, especially identifying hidden costs.

The cost issues are only one small component. Staffing levels, roles and responsibilities, etc. are another. The course would carry its weight if it addressed these two pieces, and it could accomplish much more. Courses already exist that cover this material, in the UMaine system and at Lesley. They are available in the degree programs, at least as electives. I believe we need to require one for Maine certification as a K-12 administrator. JM

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