Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Education IT

Ask Slashdot: Best Practices For Maintaining IT Policy In K-12 Public Education? 208

Posted by samzenpus
from the good-luck-with-that dept.
First time accepted submitter El Fantasmo writes "I work in public education, K-12, for a small, economically shaky, low performing school district. What are some good or effective tactics for getting budget controllers to stop bypassing the IT boss/department? We sometimes we end up with LOW end MS Win 7 Home laptops, that basically can't get on our network (internet only) or be managed. The purchaser refuses to return them for proper setups. Unfortunately, IT is currently under the 'asst. superintendent of curriculum and instruction,' who has no useful understanding of maintaining and acquiring IT resources and lets others make poor IT purchasing decisions, by bypassing the IT department, and dips into IT funds when their pet project budgets run low. How can this be reversed when you get commands like 'make it work' and the budget is effectively $0?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Ask Slashdot: Best Practices For Maintaining IT Policy In K-12 Public Education?

Comments Filter:
  • Use fear. (Score:5, Funny)

    by MrQuacker (1938262) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:07PM (#39131051)

    Just make up some bullshit about how only machine brand XYZ will work for us. All the others can be hacked by predators to take pictures of the children. Use FUD to your advantage.

    • Re:Use fear. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by decipher_saint (72686) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:10PM (#39131085) Homepage

      Wow, literally, "Fear will keep the local systems in line"

      I fear for when your IT department becomes fully operational.

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        I don't - the greatest antidote to war machines is a ragtag bunch of young misfits, and there's really no trouble finding those in K-12 schools.

    • Re:Use fear. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by roc97007 (608802) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:10PM (#39131091) Journal

      Well, somewhat along those lines you could legitimately argue that the "windows 7 dust bowl edition" does not meet the organization's security standards (because it won't join a domain).

      Speaking of which, how can these low end winders laptops use school resources if they can't log into the company domain? You *are* using active directory, aren't you? Please tell me you aren't just leaving everything open.

      • Domain security isn't always the answer - what it does appear to be is a series of IT people screaming "my kingdom, my kingdom!" especially with the move to student owned devices. Thankfully a lot of technicians are coming around on actually securing their shit rather than hiding it (my personal favourite: Poor home folder permissions because group policy says you can't connect directly to UNC paths or run scripts or open cmd.exe etc.). Missing simple features like transparent proxying over just lopping the
        • by roc97007 (608802)

          Dunno about where you went to school. My daughter (HS senior) can bring her own laptop and other electronic devices to school, but they are absolutely forbidden from connecting to the network.

          I think this is partly because of exactly what MrQuacker was talking about -- the possibility of sexting or other inappropriate materials getting on the school network from students. (Staff is a different matter.) The organization protects themselves from abuse by the legal system by forbidding all but school proper

          • Protecting the children is absolutely a necessary thing to be doing, and I can not agree more with the general sentiment. However I don't see that lack of network access is going to affect the children's ability to traffic in sexting or other similar acts, only cover the ass of staff when it happens on school grounds. They are still able to be prosecuted for negligence without the devices on the network, and I'm sure if we went and looked there would be at least one case where this happens. At least when yo
            • by roc97007 (608802)

              > Protecting the children is absolutely a necessary thing to be doing, and I can not agree more with the general sentiment. However I don't see that lack of network access is going to affect the children's ability to traffic in sexting or other similar acts, only cover the ass of staff when it happens on school grounds.

              My understanding is that this is precisely the point. The rule is not to protect the students but to provide legal protection for the staff.

            • Protecting the children is absolutely a necessary thing to be doing

              Yes. Sexting. How awful! We must protect them from indecent thoughts! For the children, of course.

              • by roc97007 (608802)

                I don't think that's the point. The point is to protect the school system from legal and public hassles when underage porn is found on the school network. Even if it's entirely a student's fault that it's there, the school still takes the hit in the media and courtroom.

                You can't stop sexting. At best you can try to keep it off your own machines.

            • by rioki (1328185)
              I am not so sure about that monitoring thing here. I understand the basic sentiment and you need clear rules of conduct for the schools IT resources. The big problem is children are involved you must be VERY CAREFUL that you don't trample on their privacy rights. You know you have a problem when you installing a monitoring software goes for securing the IT systems to you pervert spying on our poor children.
      • by idontgno (624372)

        Oh, c'mon. In the mind of a PHB, any kind of rational argument about capabilities and feasibility is refuted immediately by "I don't care how, just make it work." When a PHB says that, all laws of causality and physics and economics and common sense are instantly banished. The PHB has made the impossibility YOUR problem. If you can't do it, it's your fault.

        And to the previous commenter who said something about use fear of PEDOS or HACKERS or TERRORISTS to bend the PHB to your will... HAHAHAHAHA! Use that ar

    • Re:Use fear. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:15PM (#39131151) Homepage Journal

      Just make up some bullshit about how only machine brand XYZ will work for us. All the others can be hacked by predators to take pictures of the children. Use FUD to your advantage.

      You didn't "listen" to TFA - you would still have to make it work. Generally the laptops would work with a bit more memory, as I have a real bottleneck now with my work PCs having less memory than optimal. As time marches on Operating System and Software require more resources and the real killer is paging memory. A bit of push-back may be required - have IT issue (with support from upper management, no mean feat) a minimum plaftorm for purchases. When technology decisions bypass IT and then IT is saddled with maintaining it, it sets the stage for Failure. Ultimately the IT department has to make its wishes known and have full support or the battle will always be a losing one.

      • Re:Use fear. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Archangel Michael (180766) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @02:55AM (#39134017) Journal

        Generally the laptops would work with a bit more memory,

        It depends on what you mean by "Work". In our school district, we found out the hard way, that the VLM KMS Server (microsoft DRM) doesn't work with commodity hardware, PERIOD. There is an extra setting in BIOS that is a MS Key on Enterprise level hardware that is required for the KMS to activate our Win 7 Professional/Server 2k8R2. (Office KMS works fine however).

        This alone is reason enough to say "No unauthorized purchases". When you're imaging (WDS is a godsend) bulk computers, saving the district THOUSANDS in labor by having everything "enterprise" level and supporting 5000+ computers with a staff of 9, it all makes sense.

        As for the Original question, I have learned a phrase that keeps people at bay, "Can I have a budget code for that", whenever they ask me if something is possible. In IT, almost anything is possible, given the right budget. The idea that you can run everything on a shoestring should be put to rest that easy.

        The other phrase I've learned is, "If you won't support IT, why should IT support you". The meaning is simple, if you go around IT, then you don't get IT support, or you are last in line when it comes to solving the issues of the day. "Your Acer isn't running Pro? Sorry, I have computers that are part of the domain that need support, they are my priority"

        Lastly, one has to communicate WHY (often in overly simplistic terms) the IT has its rules. It isn't to be dicks (okay, sometimes it is) but rather because there are consequences for not doing things right in the first place. Mostly those consequences cost more in the long run than doing things right in the first place. Lost data, slow support, expending resources to put out fires that didnt't need to happen in the first place. ALL trying to save a buck.

        And I feel for the guy. I know what it means when the Administration is too stupid to know how dumb they really are. These people know nothing, are making decisions in complete and utter arrogance of ignorance. And I have the stories to prove it.

        • Generally the laptops would work with a bit more memory,

          It depends on what you mean by "Work". In our school district, we found out the hard way, that the VLM KMS Server (microsoft DRM) doesn't work with commodity hardware, PERIOD. There is an extra setting in BIOS that is a MS Key on Enterprise level hardware that is required for the KMS to activate our Win 7 Professional/Server 2k8R2. (Office KMS works fine however).

          If you don't have hardware with SLP bits in it, you can get all your enterprise stuff to activate by changing the registry setting:
          “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup\OOBE\MediaBootInstall” to 0

          REG ADD HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup\OOBE /v MediaBootInstall /t reg_dword /f /d 0
          and slmgr /rearm

          aught to do it.

          MS volume licences are "upgrade only", so it either needs to recognize MS SLP bits in the BIOS, or installed by an "upgrade", or tricked

    • All the others can be hacked by predators to take pictures of the children.

      Why would they care about that, when the government has no problem with school districts spying on students themselves? [theinquirer.net]

    • Just make up some bullshit about how only machine brand XYZ will work for us. All the others can be hacked by predators to take pictures of the children. Use FUD to your advantage.

      For god's sake, don't forget sun-spots! The sun-spots will work with the predators and John Travolta to create landing pads for gay Martians...*

      * Apologies to whomever's sig I just ripped off.

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:12PM (#39131113)

    You need to have the licensing right for the software that you have.

    http://www.microsoft.com/education/en-us/buy/licensing/Pages/schoolenrollment.aspx [microsoft.com]

    But right now you need to tell the people who say 'make it work' how big the fine is for not have the licensing right.

    • by bhtooefr (649901)

      Get records of that, bring it up at major district meetings so that everyone knows about it, and if they still don't fix it...

      Anonymously tip the BSA off to trigger a raid.

    • I fail to see how this post addresses anything in the OP's submission. ???

  • by gweihir (88907) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:12PM (#39131117)

    There is a reason people are bypassing you. From my experience, it is because you either are not performing well, or they think that you are not performing well. If it is the latter, you should raise awareness with regard to backups, security, etc. You may also want at look at prices. For example, recently I have seen ridiculous internal prices for a few GBs of file-server storage accessible to a complete department.

    Of course, if it is the former, then you are screwed and people are bypassing you so that they can get their jobs done. In that case you should think about abandoning the current IT department and building up a new one with people that understand that they are service providers.

    • by gweihir (88907)

      I should also add that IMO you must get away from "curriculum and instruction" or you will not be able to do your job well. If you cannot do that, then I advise you to look for a better job where they actually let you do work under acceptable conditions. Yes, that may be hard, but in these situations, typically all the good people leave for exactly this reason and the IT department slowly becomes non-functional. I have seen this several times, fortunately from the outside.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Forget all the bad advice. It's called politics. Want the right things done, start accruing political power. Create a circle of supportive people with sufficient power to make real decisions.

        Never forget there are many shit heads who will make terrible decisions just to get freebees from suppliers, undermine that relationship and they will seek to get you fired and they will do that as their major job focus, unbeknownst to you, until you are gone.

        Want to implement solutions. First present them to the '

      • The IT department was recently, briefly under "business and operations," but when the HR director who led the restructure left and a new asst. superintendent of curriculum and instruction came in, she got IT moved under C&I so she could have direct access to its budget. She was employed for less than 3 years and lost over ~$500,000 worth of grants because she fired her secretary, who kept "nagging" her to finalize some grant paper work for money already awarded.

    • by Cormacus (976625)
      Well, there could always be the issue of "thats the way we always did it." If no one has shown the folks doing the purchasing how the process ought to go before, then they will do whatever they are familiar with/whatever they can come up with. You might be able to get somewhere by setting up a very simple procedure (making sure to avoid the problems mentioned in parent) and then get out and talk with the people who are making the requests that sidestep your department. Basically, if you can train people
    • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @08:01PM (#39131603)

      He did say he was in an "economically shaky, low-performing school district". An organization being characterized poorly like that usually means that the people running it at the top are doing a lousy job, and when that's the case, there's not much people at lower levels can do, and it also means those people at the lower levels probably aren't to blame.

      • Meh. It's probably a poor district with not terribly bright students. There are lots of those. Occasionally, miracles are worked on these places, but largely they fail through inertia. You're right that the low-level employees aren't usually due for any significant blame.
      • Sense of privilege (Score:3, Informative)

        by phorm (591458)

        Having previously worked in several educational settings, I'd have to say that teachers (and more-so school admins) are often some of the most self-entitled irresponsible clients you could have in IT.

        It's not necessarily that the IT dept sucks, but rather that the staff get in their mind that they want something right now and must have it - standards/rules be damned - and that they know better than any slob in the IT department.

        To them, there's no reason why they can't go buy the cheapest laptop possible an

  • Techsoup (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gotpaint32 (728082) * on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:12PM (#39131121) Journal
    Have you considered purchasing your software through Techsoup. Microsoft software is virtually free (last i remember something like 10 to 20 bucks per copy of windows, similarly cheap for server OSes as well) so long as your organization qualifies. I am assuming you want to integrate everything on a Windows domain...
  • You don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by idontgno (624372) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:13PM (#39131125) Journal

    If it's literally as bad as you describe, your intended function is to fail as spectacularly as possible in order to be the fall guy. You can't gather meaningful evidence to convince or refute the decision-makers, and no one is going to believe you when you claim you're being asked to do the impossible by the unreasonable.

    Leave. The only reason they want you there is that they want you on the bridge when the ship runs aground.

    When failure's not an options (because it's mandatory), you're under no obligation to remain involved with that fiasco, and short of blackmail-level evidence, you have no way to change course anyway.

    • Re:You don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy@tpno-c[ ]rg ['o.o' in gap]> on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:19PM (#39131191) Homepage

      I second the "Leave" recommendation. You aren't going to change minds. You can dig in your heals and tell them "No, this will not work", and they may listen to you...but just as likely they'll find someone who they can bully around. More likely really.

      Time to jump ship and let them fail on their own.

      • Re:You don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by forkfail (228161) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:22PM (#39131241)

        Also concur. Get out before they drag you down with them, and ruin your chances for another gig.

      • by v1 (525388)

        We DO seem to see a lot of "I'm in an impossible job situation, what do I do?" Ask Slashdots lately. The most common answer is usually the same... if you're in a bad spot, things are falling apart, and all the usual routes of resolution are being thwarted by people you have no control over, YES, it is time to leave. It's frustrating, defeating, and unfair but sometimes that's just how life is and you have to react.

        • I wish I could teach people NOT to feel defeated by this. In IT, it's not only par for the course, but it's how you get raises. Take two people of similar capabilities, except one is somewhat seditary while the other changes jobs every year or two. Give it 10 years. Guess which one will have the higher salary, by quite a margin?

          This is just one aspect of our business, and I wish people understood that better.

          • by v1 (525388)

            The outcome of that comparison is completely dependent on the circumstances. Financial condition of the company, boss's attitude, corporate politics.

            Remove a variable and look again. Compare two more-or-less identical people at different companies and see how the different companies treat the two entirely different.

    • by gweihir (88907)

      I agree. Except that they may not understand that they are setting IT up to fail. They may just consider IT to be "not important". Of course that is wrong in any modern organization. Today, IT is basically always critical. Still, there is no reason to battle insane odds, no matter the root cause. A lot more organizations need to fail because of handling IT wrongly or as a lesser priority before things change.

    • Re:You don't. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Marillion (33728) <ericbardes AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:24PM (#39131261)

      First things first. You need to recognize that you don't have a technology problem. You have a people problem. Then you need to articulate this (tactfully, of course) as far and as wide as possible.

      If you succeed at that, follow up on the other excellent technical ideas expressed here.

    • by JeanCroix (99825)
      Start getting your resume out now. This isn't a budget/technology problem, it's a management problem, and it doesn't sound like you're in the position to do anything about it except take the fall.
    • Re:You don't. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Krishnoid (984597) * on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @08:34PM (#39131893) Journal

      If it's literally as bad as you describe, your intended function is to fail as spectacularly as possible in order to be the fall guy.

      I found this epic tale [thedailywtf.com] as an example of this situation. Knowing the indicators to look for based on others' hard-won experience can keep you from repeating their mistakes.

      • Re:You don't. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mandelbr0t (1015855) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:23PM (#39132241) Journal

        This story has a lot of valuable lessons to be learned. The first lesson, I think, that you can take from your experience is that you are wholly unqualified to deal with the political and management issues involved. Therefore, do not involve yourself in management or politics. The (non-technical) suggestions given have all involved either an upward appeal to authority, or coercive measures. These will only make matters worse for you. If you want to keep your job, and think that you actually have a chance to make things work, ingratiate yourself to some people who can support you if things go south. I doubt very much that you are being deliberately set up as a fall guy. The school, after all, has a need to stay somewhat technologically relevant, but they're doing it on increasingly less money.

        I'm guessing you went into education because you want to make a difference. Some people I know did as well, and they all tell the same story. Long, hard hours with very little acknowledgement. I would guess that's a reality of education these days. With a budget that's always short on funds, management will squeeze every last drop of effort from every employee. So, work under the assumption that the people who hold the purse strings are under at least as much pressure as you are. Maybe it's not true, but there's nothing you can do about it except quit.

        Off the top of my head, the best people to get on your side are teachers and students. While you can't solve everything all at once, perhaps there are some small problems you can solve for specific people. And, while someone joked about making network maintenance an elective, there's probably some truth to it. I volunteered to help out the sole network admin when I was in high school. Perhaps some bright students would be willing to help out in exchange for some tutoring. The important thing is that some people know who you are and what you do, and can commiserate since your job is just as difficult as theirs. If it's important to you, hang in there. If it's not, then it's probably time to look for something less stressful.

    • I agree with the parent poster, your ideal option is to leave.

      That probably isn't your easiest option, naturally. You do have the option of making the best of your current job, while looking for other opportunities. If you're in a low performing district, I'd imagine you can get away with pushing the crap you get on down the supply chain, and playing the part of the BOFH [google.com] when the users start bitching. Making sure to keep a solid email and written memo trail to CYA is excellent advice.

      Keep in mind that a low

  • Run with your hair on fire!

    Unless these machines are members of a domain, remote management will be a *major* PITA if not impossible without 3rd party tools. Working stand-alone workgroup machines sucks balls from an IT admin point of view. They also tend to suck up vast amounts of bandwidth youtubing and playing games. You can forget content filtering via DNS content filtering as students will end up using their own public DNS forwarders. It can sorta be done. But locking shit down through a managed firewa

    • Run with your hair on fire!

      Unless these machines are members of a domain, remote management will be a *major* PITA if not impossible without 3rd party tools. Working stand-alone workgroup machines sucks balls from an IT admin point of view. They also tend to suck up vast amounts of bandwidth youtubing and playing games. You can forget content filtering via DNS content filtering as students will end up using their own public DNS forwarders. It can sorta be done. But locking shit down through a managed firewall will take weeks if not months of tweaking and tuning. It will absolutely be a cat and mouse game between you and the students. Again, you can't manage their machines with GPOs and whatnot.

      Simple solution. Ban all laptops and have them use iPads instead. Focus on IP white listing at the firewall level. No viruses, everything is the same experience. And parents foot the bill for the units.

      I don't the schools have the funds for ipods and even then the hardware / software to manage them.

      Also buying software for lot's of ipods is a big mess as well.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Content filtering etc. is done at the firewall/router/proxy level, so that's not an issue. If the hardware supports it (switches, access points, etc), then I'd set everything up so that clients get assigned round-robin into a number of VLANs -- as large a number as the network hardware will support. Each client would then only see the outside internet (via a proxy), a domain server, and a small number of cohabitants on the same VLAN. I've set it up that way at work, and it helped prevent spread of worms and

  • by tqk (413719) <s.keeling@mail.com> on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:16PM (#39131161)

    Shut it all down. Continuing to run it in that condition's just going to degrade it further. Send the kids home with a note explaining what the incompetent !@#$hole forced you to do to their kids. Cc: the note to the news media.

    Oh, and get another job. You'll need it. Hell, you need it now.

    A !@#$storm like this can only blow up in your face. No point putting the solution off until it does.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:16PM (#39131163)

    If your department doesn't have a mission/vision statement, then you have no standard to complain about not being able to meet. You also have no direction, and frankly, probably don't deserve to get funding for anything anyway. If you do have a mission statement, and you're currently unable to meet its objectives, then point it out. If you don't have leadership support, go to the citizens. Have them elect a school board which gives priority to educational technology. This is not that hard to do, but it does require a steadfast commitment. The National Ed-Tech Plan is also a good resource to argue from. Seriously, there are so many funding opportunities for low-income school districts in this country that there's no excuse for wallowing in your current predicament.

  • Fiscal policy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by philip.paradis (2580427) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:17PM (#39131175)

    dips into IT funds when their pet project budgets run low

    Given the fact that you work in the public sector, you may wish to consider obtaining anything and everything available on budgetary policy for your school district, county, state, etc. It may turn out that what you're observing on the fiscal side of things actually represents clear misappropriation of funds. If that's the case, bringing it to the attention of people three or four levels up in the chain of command may have an interesting effect, and perhaps a detailed letter to a state representative would bring uncomfortable attention to those mismanaging the funds.

    • by idontgno (624372)

      If that's the case, bringing it to the attention of people three or four levels up in the chain of command may have an interesting effect, and perhaps a detailed letter to a state representative would bring uncomfortable attention to those mismanaging the funds.

      That's dangerous, unless you are absolutely sure of the lines of patronage and corruption, and you're sure you're not complaining to a decision-maker about one of their pet cronies.

      Yeah. I would normally concur with the general guidance of "use the

    • by godel_56 (1287256)

      dips into IT funds when their pet project budgets run low

      Given the fact that you work in the public sector, you may wish to consider obtaining anything and everything available on budgetary policy for your school district, county, state, etc. It may turn out that what you're observing on the fiscal side of things actually represents clear misappropriation of funds. If that's the case, bringing it to the attention of people three or four levels up in the chain of command may have an interesting effect, and perhaps a detailed letter to a state representative would bring uncomfortable attention to those mismanaging the funds.

      . . . and nothing bad ever happens to whistle blowers. /sarcasm

    • Fiscal Policy is a red herring. Your Superintendent controls your budget and has the power to set and change priorities. No doubt he/she follows the letter of the rules. There is nothing to blow the whistle on unless you can represent criminal activities BEYOND mere negligence.

      You must USE the system. You must must PLAY the politics.

      In most K-12 districts, the fiscal year begins; your budget for the year becomes active; on July 1. 90-95% of your budget MUST BE encumbered (POs written against it) by J

  • by ZeroPly (881915) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:20PM (#39131211)
    This is a management/politics question. Gaining resources for your own department is what a good manager or VP does every day. IT people are fundamentally bad at this because they give answers that are technical and correct, yet are irrelevant in a financial or political context. While fighting the good fight, terms like "PCI", "HIPAA", and "BSA" will help you much more than "IPSEC" or "DNS".

    Learn political skills, work on establishing trust relationships with the other players rather than just being a technical grunt, and remember that if you're not at the table, you're on the menu.
    • by rk (6314)

      This is education. A big political term you should acquaint yourself with is FERPA [gpo.gov].

  • CYA (Score:5, Informative)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:27PM (#39131299) Homepage Journal
    Bitch, constantly, in writing... preferably notorized.

    That way, when the shit inevitably hits the fan and your bureaucratic slave-driver comes looking for a fall guy, you have documentation that shows you tried your ass off to get them to change their idiotic ways, but they staunchly refused.

    Been there, done that; still got screwed, but at least by documenting everything I managed to take the asshat who wouldn't listen down with me.
  • Is there any possibility that the laptops could be converted to run Linux? Usually Linux can be make to work very well on older and more resourced constrained devices. If the IT department knows nothing about Linux or you must have Win7 then it might not be a good option - otherwise why not explore this option.

    You could get everything you need for zero cost: an operating system, LibreOffice, browsers, decent networking (although that may depend on the wireless chipsets), LDAP etc. Plus, you won't have t

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We have done this on about 250 out of 650 systems. For the most part it works very well, as the students are not yet brainwashed into the "I can only blow my nose on a kleenex" mindset when it comes to product choice. That happens when we become adults.

      You do, however run into problems with short-sighted vendors who only support windows and grudgingly support mac. And despite the relatively short path to porting most mac stuff to linux most vendors are loathe to do so. For the most part this is kind of

  • I mean it, keep some terminal server boxen around for the stuff that really must run on windows. Pitch it as a cost savings and standardization plan. Everything running end user windows should be using deep freeze or similar so you revert back to the known good state every reboot. Linux runs on just about anything you throw at it and lets face it most lab PC's need to run a very limited set of software.

  • to the lowest common denominator. an active directory would be nice, but if you have control over the network then you essentially are 'the internet.'
    id consider repurposing the older hardware for something thats still useful (flagrant *nix plug, sorry) to students and teachers as a general access desktop that gets its configuration once a day or once a week and can still be used for teaching programming or proctoring an online exam. more advanced systems can be granted access to the sensitive side of th
  • by deacent (32502) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:51PM (#39131515)

    Sadly, it's not just education that's suffers the "make-it-work with $0" mindset. This along the lines of "the beatings will continue until morale improves" except it's "the budget will not be funded until results are achieved." This is a management problem, not an IT problem. You need someone intelligent who speaks management to make it understood that they have to have realistic and definable IT goals which includes a willingness to fund them on your side.

    I don't know much about your community but if you're lucky enough to have a grant-savvy PTO, you might be able to get them to write a grant application for the funding but, again, you need to be very clear about what the goals are and how the hardware/software you want will achieve them.

    Also your local board of ed and board of finance may be interested in the dipping into the IT budget when pet project funds run low. They tend to frown on stuff like that.

  • Quit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lightknight (213164) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @08:09PM (#39131677) Homepage

    Quit.

    You'll score a job at a place which values your expertise, probably with higher pay. The institution you worked for will go under, not because you left, but because it's fairly obvious that it's already borderline, and the people in charge have their heads up their asses -> Misallocation of appropriated funds is not looked kindly upon by the press, and following the fomenting scandal, the state may be forced to shutdown the school. Since it's already a low-performing school, an argument will be made that the state's SAT scores will rise by getting rid of this particular institution, and after a fight by the local Teacher's union (you need a leg to stand on to win these kinds of battles, and they won't have one), some dagger work will be pushed through, and the problem (the school) will be made to "go away."

    You probably feel for these kids, and you want to help them out; however, you can't. You have neither the time nor the resources necessary to change the pervading mentality that IT is the asst. supervisor's trick. Given that, the best you can do is hope that their future will not be terribly impacted by the ensuing shit-storm, and get yourself out of the line of fire.

    And be sure to document all further interactions with people of interest, in either written or electronic form. Keep a nightly off-site backup of your emails, as you may be charged at some point for complicity in this madness, and will need an alibi. Remember, a bureaucrat will not hesitate to throw an underling under a bus to save himself, and no one believes the accused.

  • Several solutions (Score:5, Informative)

    by guruevi (827432) <<evi> <at> <smokingcube.be>> on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @08:14PM (#39131723) Homepage

    I have worked in EDU for quite a few years now, I was involved with a K-12 before (consulting) and have been at two higher ed jobs (one in central IT, one in research)

    a) Go open source and simply tell them: no more Windows because your licensing doesn't check out (licensing for small-to-mid schools is mighty expensive even if you get all the discounts). You have to not only get your licensing for your machines (which are ridiculously low to pull in your non-technical staff at a low point sometimes $10 or $20 for Professional versions or bundles with Office and Windows licenses) but a heap load of servers and CAL's to get everything on the Microsoft-side to work together (which ended up in one of the negotiations I was in averaging $25/FTE/service (Exchange, Sharepoint, Forefront and AD (the standard suite) was thus $100/FTE) + several $100's per server (~$300 for W2K3 Standard back then).

    b) Spec a lot higher than you need. Sure, someone (you) can go to Dell/HP and spec out a $500 machine but you should budget for that machine to cost $1500, your purchasing department (if there is one) will balk and negotiate you down to $1000 and you'll get a decent machine. I have to do this all the time in research because computer gear is the first thing that gets axed out of the budgets. For ballpark figures in research: budget your workstations at 2x the actual cost, servers at 3x the actual cost, storage at 4x the actual cost and you'll usually barely be able to afford what you need.

    c) If you really need MS Office or a 'commercial' offering because the manager/purchasing/principal wants someone to yell at when it breaks down talk to an Apple rep and have them spec out your environment including all software licensing, they're pretty honest about it unlike Microsoft as the client is simple and included in your hardware cost (no 'upgrade' or 'enterprise' required), Server is unlimited clients and cheap (and again, your organization qualifies regardless), no CAL's, no FTE calculations, no hidden fees, no need for extra licenses or site licenses just to evade their auditing department (I'm your customer Microsoft, not your serf), you'll get a rep that has experience with K-12, free seminars and classes. They're great and easy to manage and integrate well with Windows even though they may require an overhaul of your entrenched Windows admins that got hired because they're the friend of the cousin of the principal.

    d) Get better negotiation skills and set up vendors against each other. Dell for example will RAISE their prices or remove their cheapest offerings for K-12 (especially existing customers) unless you can pit two sales people against each other. They can sometimes go to great lengths to reduce their cost. Alternatively, I have found that if you need a boatload of generic computers, you might even be cheaper getting a local company to custom build you a boatload of your specced out computers. I have worked with a company that custom builds laptops and desktops (if you need more than 50) and they have local, free customer and technical service whenever it breaks down and they're cheaper than the Dell/HP offerings and they build only to what you need. I needed for example specific workstations (2 nVidia cards with at least 1GB VRAM, Xeon CPU's, 16GB ECC RAM) and HP would sell me machines that came with the choice of Quadro ($$$) or an empty slot while Dell would in the same lineup have 1 month a shipment of nVidia cards and the next a shipment with ATI (now AMD) cards and then all of a sudden they would send me a machine with ECC RAM but the motherboard didn't support the ECC functionality.

    e) Look elsewhere to cut your budget. Do you really need Cisco gear? How about HP or Netgear even? Do you really need service plans? Do you really need Microsoft software on your server? LDAP is free, Samba is free and both are just as easy to manage as AD with the proper tools. And for the whiners that say "how about Global Policies" - do you really use that crap? In an educational environment you want to be

    • by starcraftsicko (647070) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @11:33PM (#39133057)

      Wrong. I work in a district much like GP. What you describe is probably how the last guy got this one into this mess.

      a) "Open Source" is not a magic fix-it. If OP/GP is a windows/PC tech, he has a sharp learning curve ahead and he already has no time. If he makes a switch and can't make it work, he's on the street. Even if he can make it work, training the users will be nearly impossible. Sure, a browser is a browser, but K-12 is a strange industry where uncooperative employees tend to survive to weigh down the process for years. "You can't expect me to use this thing without training!" "You can't expect me to show up to training seminars without extra pay!" "I can't do my job because you gave me a computer that I can't use!" "Test scores are down because I spent all my time trying to use your system!"

      b) $1500? This guy is bidding against the donated 5yr old crap and "Black Friday" new pricing. They're going around him because he (or the last guy) was taking your advice. YES, $1500 is a good budget number for a midrange computer and monitor, standard MS software, and related infrastructure. He won't get that. You can play that game in your research environment only because everyone does....

      c) The reason you need MS Office is not for the Principals... The teachers will want an office suite on their computers that matches the instructional materials they can buy to aid their instruction. Yes, they should teach it differently, but they don't and this guy is a decade away from having the street cred to tell them how and still keep his job.

      d) Your best advice. If he can get them to come to him, get at least two vendors to fight for the business. Don't go the sealed bid route. Tell each about the other bid. Rinse and repeat.

      e) He has no budget. If he has a discretionary budget, infrastructure is the way to be. No you don't need cisco- I am personally a fan of HP switches...

      My advice: Setup a meeting with the Superintendent(s) and the business administrator. Share your reasonably priced vision of what their district could be in 3-4 years with consistent, managed investment. (Include their pet projects - grit your teeth and do it!) Tell them what it costs both in terms of dollars and procedural changes. Do this every 6 months or so regardless of the result.

      Regardless of the result:
      1: Core infrastructure first. Those switches. 2 Servers. Good backup for critical data (business office; stuff used by superintendents).

      1a: Business critical systems must be setup and managed correctly. This is the ONLY item I would take to the school board if you can't get cooperation. This means domain, authentication, good enterprise class AV, VPN access for semitrusted systems that need access. You should insist on this in the strongest way possible.

      2: Inventory and Ticket system. Knowing how many of what you are responsible for is important. Knowing how many times you've had to fix the lab of black Friday rejects is critical too.

      3: People that work through you take priority. If they did it your way and bought what you wanted the way you wanted, it MUST work. MUST! If you have to sit there a switch the bits yourself...

      4: That means you get to those home OS mistakes when you can. NEVER order parts for these machines. NEVER spend a lot of time servicing these machines. DO NOT be afraid to declare these systems "no longer usable without significant repair investment". When asked about that cost, quote the dollar amount of a properly spec'd new machine.

      5: DO NOT leave non-functional machines deployed. Non-functional equipment makes you look bad. Insufficient quantities of equipment may lead to proper budgeting...

      Finally: If you find yourself with a small budget for user endpoints (computers) and want to deploy to gain the most budgetary 'bang for your buck', consider deploying in the K-4 / K-6 segment of your district. Most districts put their best in the 9-12 space and place progressively older / less r

      • by guruevi (827432)

        a) Yes I understand, but again, if you don't have the budget for properly licensed machines, you shouldn't be using them. Guess who will pay for an unlicensed machine on their network during one of these audits: Your job. Because even though you may have complained about it for years, you have also enabled it. Simply give them the machine with a free OS (FreeDOS will work) and tell them that you're not allowed by law to give them a Home edition if the machine was purchased with school funds and tell them yo

  • There is often a disconnect between perception and reality in school environments (many others as well, but I've seen it magnified in schools). The real job before you is getting their perceptions to catch up to reality. Do you know how much equipment your IT staff is responsible for maintaining? Do you know how many hours are spent on particular tasks? Setting up an inventory and work order/ticket system, and having the staff use it allows you to produce hard numbers instead of "Somewhere around 'X'". That
  • Based on your description, it seems like you have a cursory idea of the orgainizational structure of your school district, but very little knowlege about how things get purchased, out of where, and who is responsible for what. Based on your description, I have you pegged as a support tech, and there is 1 maybe 2 other people in the IT department (like a Technology Coordinator/Director and maybe a Network Manager). No?

    In truth, you should be celebrating the fact that your department is under the Assoc. Sup

  • Unfortunately, IT is currently under the 'asst. superintendent of curriculum and instruction,' who has no useful understanding of maintaining and acquiring IT resources and lets others make poor IT purchasing decisions, by bypassing the IT department, and dips into IT funds when their pet project budgets run low. How can this be reversed when you get commands like 'make it work' and the budget is effectively $0?"

    Grow a pair.

    Seriously. You're not asserting yourself. You're letting your assistant sup do wh

  • Remove the engine from his car. Demand he "make it work". Refuse to give back the engine or to pay for a new one.

    Oh, and quit your job because there isn't a damn thing you can do to fix this problem. You are fucked.

  • by buss_error (142273) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:51PM (#39132417) Homepage Journal

    samzenpus,

    Stop making it work. It's the only answer. Your cleaver ability to make it work (somehow) only reinforces their "vision" that you don't know what you're talking about and ask for too much. Do be careful, and don't do this when a really obvious workaround is available. I'm taking about spending a week or two head scratching to come up with an answer is what you should stop or at least slow down. Don't make the slowdown suddenly, make it over a year.

    Also see this post: http://ask.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2686997&cid=39131125 [slashdot.org] - and take it to heart. Just happened to me. I quit rather than take the "death march". Got nearly a 100,000 dollar raise out of it too. Did I mention it's always good to carefully document your projects?

    When the higher-ups start complaining about things not working, say things like:
    "Yes, I knew that would happen if we substituted the windows licenses I requested for the less costly versions we were supplied. There is a reason for the price point difference. I would have pointed it out if I'd been informed of the change."
    "That hardware was known to be under-preforming, however, we were not advised our requested hardware was to be substituted for that or I would have pointed out the deficiencies."
    "I wouldn't dream of selecting what educational materials were purchased because I'm not an educator. I'm not sure why people that are not IT professionals would substitute their judgement in IT areas with out a even a consult with IT. We know about budget constraints and we specify the least expensive choice that still gets the job done with the resources available." (Careful with that one.)
    You should come up with at least a dozen variations on this theme and drop them causally to everyone, not just the PHBs. I was able to force out a PHB that constantly was changing my orders for software, services and equipment with careful documentation and a grass roots effort from classroom teachers.

  • You might consider exploring a campus agreement--some variants allow the sale of software at a super-steep discount (in recent years including OS) to students for use on their machines, so this might get you to a place where the machines could be manageable Pro or higher editions without major expense... Compliance would still be hard, but really we're at a point where you shouldn't be having "client" systems connect directly to the internal network, and should instead carefully manage their traffic and communicate content to students from the school on semi-private networks that don't have access to the live network. It isn't very difficult to conceive of configuring a VPN service onto that network in such a fashion as the clients couldn't communicate with the other clients, and only have access to the terminal servers you provide application services from...

    If students want access they need to login... Android, iPhone, and iPad all support VPN connections so it seems like a trivial inconvenience to protect all involved.

    It would also give you access to some very cheap pricing for the software you're probably already over-paying for.

  • How can this be reversed when you get commands like 'make it work'

    Those are magic words; be thankful. I'd love to hear stupid commands replaced with that.

  • Let me guess, the Op has never heard of Free software, BSD, Linux, Samba, Apache or Libre Office? Oh, well, let the ignorant maroon suffer then.
    • by geekmux (1040042)

      Let me guess, the Op has never heard of Free software, BSD, Linux, Samba, Apache or Libre Office? Oh, well, let the ignorant maroon suffer then.

      Let me guess, the OP has never had to support Free software, BSD, Linux, Samba, Apache or Libre Office before in a business environment.

      Oh, the irony of you blaming the OP for being ignorant...What's next, I suppose you going to point me in the direction of the spectacular support programs backing all this free software, because of course that couldn't possibly be one of the main reasons most FOSS packages never make it mainstream...

      • Mod parent up.

        The idea of a network administrator running from classroom to classroom, dealing with day to day issues (printer is empty, I forgot my password, I need this software installed, my computer isn't working...) is insane. Taking care of teachers in addition to students requires at least seven full-time seasoned IT people, for a school of 500. More if you want any decent performance / turn-around time / planning & integration of that technology. If you want to peel off 2 or 3 of them to teach t

  • Write up a few examples of stupidity that ends up wasting more money than it saves, ie cheap laptops, inkjets in every room etc. Send this to the people at the top end of handling the money along with an estimate of how much it is costing and what issues is is and will cause. Hopefully when seen in dollars and sense ( :) ) they will step in and give you the mandate to fix the issues.

    Also check out this site: www.edugeek.net for experiences and advice from lots of other school techs.

    Having worked in this en

  • You have the same three choices everyone who has ever been in your position has:

    1. You can quit.

    2. You can blow the whistle.

    3. You can do an incompetent job as directed.

    What's your pleasure?

  • Do whatever you can to get a policy initiative rolling. Draft it to specify, as far as possible, the "right way" to do things. Cite regulatory compliance, best practices, etc. wherever possible to support your policies as you work through the process of drafting and adopting. Make sure that everyone involved is as "on-board" and informed as you can make them. Once you have "the policy" to refer to, you have a tremendously powerful response to the idiot in purchasing who insists on doing stupid things like b
  • In situations like this, the problem is ignorance of management to the costs and issues involved. Done properly, you can have machines that are standardised, running the correct OS, and costing less than generic individual PC/license purchases.

    Rather than simply bitch about it, work towards fixing the problem. Engage Dell/HP (or put the requirements out to tender with a bunch of them) or another large OEM, and run them through the number of PCs you have, and come up with a plan to depreciate them over 3-

  • You need to align what you're doing in IT, to student achievement. If what you're doing improves student achievement, then it'll be very hard to say 'no' to letting you do your job. When going around you doesn't improve student achievement, or improves it less than the way you do it, they'll realize they need to let you do your job. Public Schools are about student achievement, first and foremost.

    Depending on what state you're in, Public Schools have to go out to bid on any signifigant purchase. If they

  • I work for a small private school. Microsoft damn near gives their software away to non-profits and schools. If you have hardware running the wrong version of Windows, Microsoft will most likely upgrade you for free.

    Go here and do a bit of research:

    http://www.microsoft.com/about/corporatecitizenship/en-us/community-tools/nonprofits/ [microsoft.com]

    Put together a request and send it to Microsoft. You may be surprised at the response. Microsoft's business strategies have been less than nice in the past, but I can not fault h

Kleeneness is next to Godelness.

Working...