Clarke IT Professional Engineers Computer Donation to Schools

Computer technology is a fundamental component of quality education yet Clarke County Public Schools is facing an uphill challenge in delivering the technological infrastructure necessary to support classroom learning and SOL testing. Many of the computers being used by students are more than ten years old and are the result of end-of-useful-life donations from federal government agencies. A recent donation of ten computer servers by a local technology firm is intended to address

“Several years ago a previous company I worked for donated some AV equipment to the Clarke County school district which I believe may still be in use today,” said Clarke County resident Tony Parrott. “I understand the school district can always use extra help in so many areas so anytime I find something that I think could be of use to the school that could save them money or offer a better experience for the kids, I ask if I can help.”

Tony and Michelle Parrott have four children in Clarke County Public Schools - Photo courtesy Tony Parrott

Parrott, and his wife Michelle, have lived in Clarke County for twelve years and have four children attending Clarke County Public Schools. Parrott is Global Support Manager – Return Materials for iDirect, a manufacturer of satellite-based IP communications technology that enables constant communication for voice, video, and data applications in diverse and challenging environments. iDirect specializes in global satellite communications and serves customers in over 50 countries, in over 40 different industries, through a diverse network of service provider partners.

iDirect is headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, and has offices in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

Parrott’s professional expertise with data systems has provided him with a keen understanding of the technical challenges that the school district faces. Parrott said that since iDirect often donates equipment and services to assist with relief efforts around the world, he wondered if iDirect would be interested in offering assistance locally to Clarke County Public Schools.

“We don’t have an official school program, however we donate equipment and funds to relief efforts around the world as often as we can,” Parrott said. “Satellite has a natural fit for providing an immediate communications infrastructure to aid in relief efforts; in these cases we donate equipment and resources whenever we can help a situation.”

Parrott decided to approach iDirect’s management team with the idea of donating end-of-life computer hardware, ten IBM X Series rack mount servers, for use in data storage.

“It didn’t take much convincing at all,” Parrott said of his discussions with iDirect management. “I approached our CFO Chris Norem and he said ‘If the school system can use them by all means, let them have the servers.’”

iDirect of Herndon, Virginia is donating ten IBM X series 335 servers to Clarke County Public Schools

Parrott said that the original purchase value of the new equipment was approximately $20k but even though the products are now expendable to iDirect the equipment can still be useful to the school district. In fact, iDirect sells its products and services through a diverse network for service provider partners, such as Verizon, British Telecom , Orange Business Systems, and Intelsat to name a few. iDirect’s service provider partners use iDirect’s equipment to offer satellite services to schools, hospitals, enterprises, government, maritime, aeronautical and oil and gas companies all over the world.

At a recent school board meeting Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy and the school board heard firsthand from Technology Director, David Baggett about the technology maintenance and budget challenges facing the district.

“We fight every day to keep some of those systems working,” Baggett said. “Moving to a five year replacement rotation where we replace 200 machines a year will require $200K annually.”

“We are playing major catch-up with our infrastructure and technology,” agreed Dr. Murphy .

Comments

  1. Denise Enger says:

    Thanks to Tony Parrot for this effort. We know the Parrots to be great supporters of our kids and schools so this news is happy but not surprising! 🙂

  2. Denise Enger says:

    …Oops, my apologies for spelling Parrott incorrectly.

  3. teachers who cares says:

    Clarke county is ready to catch up in the technology field. There are so many valuable resoures on a Smart Board or Promethean Board..and teachers should have access to these every day. Let’s support Clarke County Public Schools in moving forward in technology. We are way behind in this area..but we can catch up. Any ideas ? I wish I were a millionaire who could donate this technology..but I am not. Is there anyone out there who can help Clarke County purchase a valuable teaching and learning tool?

  4. Naked Truth says:

    Good news for the school system. But gee I wonder if there is an election bid in the near future?

  5. Wondering says:

    This is a step in the right direction but I’m wondering what happened to the donation that the Clarke County Education Foundation promised to make to upgrade the technology departments a few years ago? Did they indeed make that donation or was that all just false promises?

    • It would be great to see someone from the CCEF respond to this question. I too am a little curious about this.

  6. First and foremost, thank you to the Parrotts for working diligently for students in the county. Being resourceful given the current climate of the economy brings additional kudos!

    During open houses in September for JWMS and CCHS, I was surprised at the lack of Smart Board technology. I understand not having them at the high school given a new one is across the street, however the middle school (and elementary) could certainly benefit from the technology.

    I found this quick informational link for those who are wondering what a Smart Board can do for the classroom. I can attest, they are phenomenal teaching tools making the DVD, VCR and standard projectors obsolete. Smart Boards are interactive giving the ability to support to all types of learners: kinesthetic, visual, auditory and so on.

    http://jsguilkey.iweb.bsu.edu/professional/Technology/SMARTboard/index.htm

    My questions are…does anyone know if these are in the works for the new high school? Is there a current plan to outfit other classrooms in the county with smart boards?

    Thank you!

    • Travis Goodwin says:

      And…if you’d follow your own link just one clich further, you’ll see why there are no SmartBoards used throughout CCPS – they cost $3,000 – $5,000 apiece when you factor in all of the accessories, software, support and such. Multiply that out by some 120 or so classrooms, and you’re looking at some $360,000 – $600,000 for JUST the SmartBoards; add up all of the other tech issues detailed previously, and you’re talking an expense that is quite considerable.

      http://jsguilkey.iweb.bsu.edu/professional/Technology/SMARTboard/SMART5.htm

      Now, these boards are great to have (we use them at work, but not every office has one). I know my newphew’s math class uses something called a Mimio, which does a lot of what the Smart Board does. So, it would seem that some technology is being used, but costs are a very real limitation.

    • Travis Goodwin says:

      If you’d followed your link one page further, you’d see why these aren’t used in classrooms here: a typical SmartBoard, with all of its peripherals, accessories, hookups, software and such, costs $3000-$5000 apiece. They are a nifty piece of equipment to use, but their steep cost is a limitation.

      http://jsguilkey.iweb.bsu.edu/professional/Technology/SMARTboard/SMART5.htm

      • Travis Goodwin says:

        My apologies to everyone for the double post. When I posted the first one, it didn’t appear to go up, so I reposted. Technology…ain’t it great thing? 🙂

  7. Dave Zuleger says:

    Great job Tony! Thanks for looking out for the kids. I don’t know much horsepower an “IBM X series 335 Server” has, but I’m sure it will help the school system with their technology crunch.

  8. hoops fan says:

    Thank Tony and Michelle, for this and the work you do!

  9. Brenda L. Barr says:

    Dear Travis,

    I understand how much they cost…my question was does the new high school plan include Smart Board technology?

    Anyone?

    Thanks,
    Brenda

    • Fly on the wall says:

      Ummm…if you’re aware of the cost, then why are you surprised they’re not in use?

  10. Brenda L. Barr says:

    My thought about the new high school is this…

    Will the teacher’s classrooms have new hardware i.e. computers? DVD, projectors already? If so, the the initial start up for smart board technology will be significantly reduced.

    I have worked in schools where Department heads started out as baby steppers even using a portion of their budget towards the purchase of technology. The trickle down effect years later is all classrooms now have them as the school recognized the inherent value for educator and learner. Dr. Werner struggled with a projector on back to school night detailing the parent portal. Oh to have a smart board in the new auditorium…And sure one per department is not an instant fix, but certainly something to look into.

    and again, Just my thought. 🙂

    Any my question still isn’t answered, Will the new high school have Smart Board technology? If anyone can direct to me where it can be found, I would be grateful.

    • Just sayin says:

      In the auditorium? Really? That’s funny.

    • Tammy Lanham says:

      Brenda, thank you for your persistence- I have wondered for quite some time if our new high school will be adequately furnished with tools that are necessary for our teachers and students to succeed in the years ahead. Smart Boards are expensive, but they are definitely worth it. My ninth grade daughter was actually surprised none of her classes at CCHS have this basic item, when at JWMS several teachers use them daily (to post notes and outlines directly from their computer, allow students to write on the board and save their work, and show video clips or do online research instantly). I believe the boards may have been purchased through grants or by the individual initiative of teachers who want standard teaching equipment in their classrooms.

      This year I am teaching at the elementary level, and the new music textbook series we just adopted only offers electronic “big books” at the kindergarten level (to project on the promethean boards that are in every one of our classrooms). Silver Burdette apparently no longer makes the giant books that we used to hold up and read. Science and math teachers have found this tool particularly helpful at the high school level, and curriculum sources are now coming out with that technology in mind. This is not a future need, it is happening now- and in the technological world our children are growing up in, we really need to keep current (by the way Tony, thank you for starting this discussion by caring enough to see the need and do something about it!)

      I too would like to know if the high school will be equipped with Smart Board technology. And yes, at least a projector with computer compatibility and full screen in the auditorium is actually standard fare. Perhaps some of the money we saved in construction should be used to fully equip the classrooms for high school students in this century.

      • Fly on the wall says:

        J-WMS does not have any SmartBoards; a few teachers (mostly Math) use a Mimio device, which basically turns a regular whiteboard into an interactive one, but lacks the Internet connectivity and other features a true SmartBoard would have.

        • Fly on the wall says:

          At least, that’s what I noticed on Back to School Night when I followed my kid’s schedule.

  11. All,

    The technology issue could be taken care of if the Clarke County Education Foundation made good on their promise of a substantial donation towards the technology department.

    Why isn’t anyone else asking this question? Why isn’t anyone answering this question?

  12. Thanks Tony! Positive contributions like yours encourage others to do the same.

  13. Wondering says:

    Boy, some people get pretty crabby when they retire!

    • Crabby? Nah. Just reminding folks that Google is at their fingertips. Btw, it’s more likely that you will get a response to your question if you were to pose it to the posted email contact.

      http://www.millertek.net/ccefinc/governance.htm

      • William James says:

        It is only strange to me that some of the people on this Board was pushed out after the last SB election. I didn’t know they were on this Board. I don’t rely on the contact person as well. Things seem to be one sided, and it’s theirs. I don’t think you’ll get a straight answer about the tech donation. I feel they are all bitter about being squeezed out. My two cents.

        • $0.01

          Change.

          I can’t believe you people. You won’t even contact the organization officially via email, or take the time to phone any member of the board of the CCEF. They have a website; there is no secret cabal.

          Except when you post here.

  14. There may be an alternative to interactive smart boards that is cost effective and possibly easier to use – tablet pc’s. At my last school the money wasn’t there for a large roll-out of smart boards, so classrooms were equipped with lcd projectors wirelessly connected to the school’s network. Teachers in those rooms were then issued tablet pc’s (Fujitsus and Lenovos)which also connected to the projector/network wirelessly.

    For those who don’t know a tablet pc can be used as a standard laptop or you can rotate the screen into the tablet position and use a sytlus to ink directly on the screen. Word and Journal both have decent inking features; you can free draw or ink on and around existing text. (I tried One Note, but didn’t like it.) I would publish the entire lesson to Edline each day. You could take the tablet home to prep lessons, so you didn’t have to produce a file on one box and transfer it to the network environment.

    The big difference: Instead of students going to the board, the board came to their desk.

    • It’s not my responsibility to seek out this information. It was an offer that was put on the table by the CCEF and they did not make good on their offer. The technology department should be going after Stutzman and the rest of the Board of the CCEF.